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28 October 2014
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Fireworks at Warwick Castle
Fireworks over the orchestra stage

Spellbound by music and fireworks

Reviewed by Nadine Towell
Warwick Castle's Grand Summer Concerts have been and gone for another year. We sent Nadine Towell along to experience the spectacular show for the first time.


Warwick Castle summer concert

Jarre: Lawrence of Arabia suite

Walton: Orb and Sceptre

Arnold: Bridge on the River Kwai suite

Elgar: Enigma Variations: Nimrod

Holst: The Planets: Jupiter

Walton: Spitfire Prelude and Fugue

Shostakovich: Festive Overture

Borodin: Prince Igor: Polotsvian Dances

Khachaturian: Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia

Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake

What a way to spend a summer’s evening. And I know absolutely nothing about classical music.

Last weekend thousands of people flocked to the Grand Summer Concert (with fireworks) at Warwick Castle and I guarantee not one of them left disappointed. The beautiful weather helped of course, but I’m convinced the crowd would have remained spellbound even if it was blowing a gale and pouring with rain.

Fireworks at Warwick Castle
A giant swan was part of the finale

Anything goes at this event - from dinner jackets and evening gowns to shorts and trainers. I saw a hen-party complete with L-plates and pink balloons as well as families with babies, young couples, groups of friends and people on their own. Veterans of these annual concerts come well prepared with their deckchairs, tables, lanterns and of course picnic hampers complete with strawberries and champagne. Others bring just a plastic bag to sit on and a can of beer. But no-one looked out of place.

As the BBC Concert Orchestra began playing a hush fell over the audience. This is by no means a high-brow concert for lovers of classical music but you can’t help but be stirred as the music reverberates around you. The first half of the concert was dedicated to British composers in celebration of the 60th anniversary of VE Day this year. The orchestra brought us well-known tunes such as The Dambusters March, composed by Eric Coates and an excerpt from the Bridge on the River Kwai Suite by Malcolm Arnold. Even if these titles mean nothing to you I GUARANTEE you would recognise them - the conductor Owain Arwel Hughes encouraged us to whistle along!

Like I said I know nothing about classical music, but this concert made me realise just how accessible it is. As we sat and listened I remarked that the first piece we heard sounded like it came from a Disney movie. It was a twinkly kind of piece, uplifting and with that feel-good factor. It would have accompanied a Tom and Jerry cartoon perfectly, conveying that sense of mood as cat and mouse constantly vie to get the better of one another. And the funny thing is, we realised, classical music IS used in Disney movies and cartoons all the time. As the music played we could almost picture what would be happening on screen – the pace of the piece gives you that sense of mood and action in a way that nothing else could.

Fireworks at Warwick Castle
The fireworks were incredible

Another composition we heard is, I realised, now used in a television advert for a well-known brand of bread. And as we listened to the Jupiter Suite – part of The Planets by Holst – I recognised the tune that most of us would know as the rugby theme “World in Union”. It’s incredible how much classical music surrounds us in our everyday lives, but without it being shoved down our throats.  

After the interval we enjoyed a collection of music from Russian composers including Borodin and Tchaikovsky. And then when the fireworks began, we were spellbound. I’ve spent New Year’s Eve in Times Square in New York and believe me the fireworks there couldn’t touch the spectacle we saw over the Pageant Field at Warwick Castle! It was better than anything I’ve seen on November the Fifth. And they didn’t stop. Every time you thought “that must be it”, the organisers sent a few more rockets into the sky. Incredible.

A standing ovation at the end of the evening demonstrated just how much the audience enjoyed itself and I went home with a warm fuzzy feeling inside! You can’t beat a British summer’s evening like that.

Next year’s concerts will take place on the 1st and 2nd July and nothing will stop me from going again. Although the tickets for these concerts are pricey at around £25 a time, they’re worth every penny.

And even the porta-loos are posh! 

last updated: 26/07/05
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