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The Castle Howard Proms (North Yorkshire)

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Castle Howard is one of Britain's finest stately homes, located in the beautiful Howardian Hills, fifteen miles northeast of the famous city of York.

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      25.08.2001 01:54
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      Now I should first point out that I am not a great classical music fan. Far from it. Give me a bit of Ministry of Sound any day - at least it makes me feel young (even though I am not and really should grow up a bit). I also don't particularly like being in the middle of a field waiting for it to rain. In theory then I should not really have been at the Castle Howard 'last night of the proms'. But I was. I would like to think however I was a little bit patriotic. Not that I go round with a flag waving out of my car window signing 'Rule Brittania' - just discreetly patriotic like nearly all Brits. We don't need to shout it about. And so I found myself at the Castle Howard 'Last night of the Proms'. Just in case you don't know where Castle Howard is its located around 15 miles to the East of York on the A64. What that means is its pretty easy to get too from pretty much anywhere - York, Leeds, Hull and Scarborough are all in striking distance. The 'Castle' is a wonderful location for the proms - the stately home at the top of a hill with a large grassy bank leading down to the Estate Lake as a backdrop for the performance stage. There is no seating - you bring your own. The thousands strong crowd use everything from a coat to a chair sat around a candle lit table for this. And this is half of the fun of it - you bring your own seating, food, drink, drink, drink and everything else but the kitchen sink. An umbrella is always a good idea too. The concert itself started at 7:30 but if you intend to visit this performance next year get there around 5 o'clock if you want to be pretty close to the stage. The time flies by and there is normally a warm up band - this year we where treated to a brass band playing amongst other things a mix of James Bond themes, excellent. At 7:30 the main show started with this years visitors the English National Orchestra. Now I am no connoisseur of
      Orchestras and it could be argued I wouldn't know a good one from a bad one. I am prepared to argue - this was a good one. Looking through the Concert programme I didn't think I knew a single tune - funnily enough when I heard them I knew every single one! This year during the first 'act' of music we where treated to a stunt display by an original WW2 spitfire. I had read in the leaflet that came with the tickets that this was going to happen and have to admit to thinking that this was going to be a little boring. After all we have all now seen Jet fighters and the like flying overhead. With the first part of dusk upon us the spitfire appeared on the horizon to the 'Battle of Britain March' and I have to admit it suddenly became a poignant reminder of why we where all there waving Union Jacks and not something else. For around 10 minutes this graceful 60 year old piece of machinery flew around and about to the theme from Dambusters and 633 Squadron. Heck I would almost say moving. As I said the orchestra was good. The conductor, who I am afraid I haven't clue what his name was, was also really good. He sounded like Channel 4's very own Graham Norton - how camp! The second part of the show started with tunes such as the theme from Star Wars before ending with the usual flag waving classics - Sea Songs (including clapping hands audience participation), Rule Britannia! and Jerusalem. This however was just the start with Land of Hope And Glory 'finishing' the evening to a superb fireworks display over the lake. Just as you caught your breath and thought what a show the orchestra came back on for their very own finale - the theme from Monty Python. Overall a great night. And that great British tradition of rain - didn't happen.

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