In Pictures: Battle Proms' explosive 21st picnic concert at Hatfield House
- Credit: Alex Shattock, SSAFA photographer.
Thousands of revellers attended the Battle Proms' 21st concert at Hatfield House on Saturday.
After being capped at half capacity last year due to coronavirus restrictions, the explosive Battle Proms series returned to Hatfield Park in all its glory on a hot, sunny day.
There was quality classical music, cavalry displays, the awe-inspiring Red Devils dropping in, an iconic Spitfire flying overhead, and cannons, lots of them, plus a spectacular fireworks display choreographed to the music.
Families, many dressed in patriotic attire, enjoyed picnics in the park as the Battle Proms series celebrated its 25th anniversary overall and 21st visit to the grounds of Hatfield House.
With temperatures soaring, organisers arranged for extra shaded areas in Hatfield Park and there was even a 'mist tent' for ticket holders to walk through to cool off.
Members of the British Army’s parachute display team were perhaps the coolest customers around as they jumped out of an aircraft flying over the Queen Elizabeth Oak Field.
The Red Devils wowed the crowd with their precision freefall demonstration, leaving trails of red smoke in the sky as they landed.
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The Battle Proms Belles then got the audience in the mood for the main event with vintage vocals, finishing with We'll Meet Again.
The traditional evening gun salute was dedicated to the Queen in her Platinum Jubilee year, heralding the opening of the orchestral programme – and the arrival of the Grace Spitfire overhead.
There followed a majestic aerial display by the World War Two aircraft to the New English Concert Orchestra's opening piece, which this year was Gustav Holst's Jupiter from The Planets suite.
After marvelling at the Spitfire's graceful aerobatics in the sky above Hatfield Park, the first half of the classical programme finished with Tchaikovsky's famous 1812 Overture including thunderous live cannon fire.
Compered by Songs of Praise favourite Pam Rhodes, the second half of the concert opened with Richard Strauss' Introduction (Sunrise) - Also Sprach Zarathustra.
This sequence was made famous by the Stanley Kubrick sci-fi film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
A waltz by Johann Strauss II – no relation to Richard – followed and soprano Denise Leigh also performed an emotional rendition of the Ukrainian national anthem.
Afterwards, Denise posted on Facebook: "A fabulous time was had at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire. It's so lovely to see a capacity audience enjoying our entertainment.
"You chose a great day for it, what weather we had, with a perfectly gorgeous evening once the sun went down, with a light breeze and the smells of summer."
The concert's signature piece, Beethoven's Battle Symphony, was performed as the composer intended – accompanied by 193 live cannons and mortars, musket fire and fireworks.
While Beethoven's The Battle of Vittoria celebrates Wellington's victory over Joseph Bonaparte (Napoleon's older brother) in Spain in 1813, soprano soloist Denise Leigh had earlier sung Les Filles de Cadiz (The Girls of Cadiz), a song in the style of a Spanish Bolero.
The Sailor's Hornpipe followed the Battle Symphony, before Denise Leigh returned to the stage for the flag-waving Last Night of the Proms-style finale of Jerusalem, Rule, Britannia! and Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March No 1, aka 'Land of Hope and Glory', as more fireworks lit up the Hatfield sky.
Having opened with a gun salute to the Queen, the concert closed with God Save The Queen followed by a rendition of Auld Lang Syne.
Once again, this year's Battle Proms concert in Hatfield was raising money for SSAFA - the Armed Forces Charity, with thousands collected on the day.
The exact total hasn't been confirmed yet, but the figure has already topped £7,000 and counting.
Battle Proms is set to return to Hatfield House on Saturday, July 15, 2023. For more on the Battle Proms, visit www.battleproms.com