We review the Leeds Castle concert with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
It felt like the stars had aligned for the return of the Leeds Castle concert to its usual July slot last night.
Last year’s event took place in September – although the weather was still fine – and, due to some restrictions in place at the time, it was kept at 50% capacity.
The crowd enjoying the music at the concert
But it was clear that last night’s event was at full capacity, as there was barely a blade of grass to find a picnic spot even when we arrived at 6pm.
The place was packed and, as bandleader and accompanist John Rigby told us, so many people had written in asking for birthday and anniversary shouts, he just didn’t have time to do them all.
The weather was so perfect that most of the spectators wore floppy hats and sunglasses, although there were also a fair number who went all out on the costume front.
We spotted a man in a nun’s habit, a St George with his sword, and a couple in inflatable dragon attire.
Swing band Down for the Count warmed everyone up nicely (although we didn’t need to be any warmer!) before the start of the main concert with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
There was such an array of people partying together – not everyone was sitting sipping their Chapel Down and lighting their candelabra.
The first half ended with a fabulous rendition of Pomp & Circumstance No 1 when the sight of the whole crowd waving their Union Jacks made your throat ache.
The second half kicked off with the iconic Spitfire completing its impressive display above the crowd and the castle, against the stunning backdrop of the setting sun.
The soloists wowed us all, including soprano Kelly Mathieson and tenor Timothy Richards, while we were told Jon Robyns had taken Les Miserables night in the West End to be at Leeds Castle for the night.
And Louise Dearman, back for her third appearance, who John Rigby described as “quickly becoming the first lady of British theatre”, had everyone singing with Disney’s Let It Go.
The concert featured all the usual favorites, but also included soundtracks from more popular films, with Disney’s A Whole New World from Aladdin being a particular highlight.
The crowd was there to party, and the feeling that we were all enjoying it together was awesome.
There was a lot of cheering at the sight of a few rubber chickens being launched and a foam plane continuing to make mini loops as it made its way through the crowd.
The number of people also didn’t seem to strain resources, and there weren’t the long queues for the toilets like there had been last year.
The only minor issue I saw anywhere was when the large screens flickered for a few moments.
The field guns were kept almost until the last minute when the sun went down and the fireworks were beautifully set to some of John Williams’ most iconic film soundtracks, including Star Wars , Harry Potter and ET.
And just as half the crowd was heading into the parking lot, John Rigby swapped his DJ for a sparkly jacket and kicked off full party mode, with songs like Sweet Caroline and Oh What a Night – the song that summed it all up. What a night!