LONDON - American conductor Marin Alsop brought the Last Night of the Proms, one of Britain's biggest musical celebrations, to a close on Saturday night with a call for greater inclusion after becoming the first woman to lead the concert in its 119-year history.
"I'm still quite shocked that it can be 2013 and there can still be firsts for women," she told the flag-waving crowd of more than 6,000, during an evening of music ranging from Handel and Wagner to the world premiere of a piece by 33-year-old composer Anna Clyne.
The crowd at the event that ends a summer-long season of concerts ranging from Hollywood movie tunes to an entire Wagner "Ring" cycle, conducted by Daniel Barenboim, welcomed the call.
"It's about time, too," said John Philpott, 59, of London, crouching on the floor of the arena in the interval after a performance of Vaughan Williams's "The Lark Ascending" with British classical music badboy and football fan Nigel Kennedy on the violin.
Alsop also called for music not to be put to one side in tough times economically around the world.
"Music and art cannot be pushed to the margins. They have to be front and centre," she said, drawing one of the louder roars of approval from the audience at the event.
It takes its name from the "Prommers" who get to stand right in front of the stage for the cheapest prices in the cavernous, oval-shaped Royal Albert Hall.
Alsop told BBC television earlier in the day that her gender had never been an issue in her work as a conductor although plenty of doors were still shut to women in the professional world.
"I've never felt any resistance from musicians. Musicians are there to be the best they can be. If you come prepared and passionate and committed as a conductor, that's all they want," she told the BBC's morning show.