Proms at the Castle

Conductor: Matthew Willis.

Leader: Susan Skone James.

Soloist: Robin Morrish (violin)

This had to be the perfect programme for the large audience that included a lot of family groups – some with very young children.

An outdoor concert demands a perfect setting and the lawn adjoining Tonbridge Castle was just that – a wonderful and highly appropriate backdrop to a very British sort of evening.   During the day the weather had been ‘mixed’ but the evening, although not warm, was dry with sunshine – just right for supper hampers.

How fitting that this Concert concluded the Tonbridge Festival – it was an appropriate celebration.  Everyone was provided with a Union Flag and two brown paper bags to blow up to replicate cannon – an essential part of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.

By invitation from Matthew Willis under whose direction the choir and orchestra have moved forward to notable acclaim, the music for the programme had largely been chosen by the people of Tonbridge and surrounding communities.  With the exception of Copland, the programme celebrated European composers.

Just days after Brexit, the inclusion of Ode to Joy – the official anthem of the EU since 1985 – was not lost on the audience (of course, the programme was devised and agreed long before 23 June).  Perhaps it was foresight that resulted in Beethoven’s inspirational score being preceded and followed by stirringly patriotic music that – with the encouragement of Matthew Willis – achieved noisy audience participation and flag-waving.  

The stage set included lighting effects that played an innovative part in the programme until – during The Messiah right at the end – there was a serious power cut. Undaunted, the orchestra and choir continued which resulted in a massive, lengthy, loud and appreciative ovation from the audience. Behind the darkened stage, the firework display showed off the castle to perfection.  

There is no doubt that the audience included some people who hadn’t previously attended a concert given by Tonbridge Philharmonic Society. Some very young people were involved and their enthusiastic participation indicated they thoroughly enjoyed the experience. This was a gala night and the atmosphere and the great untrained choir – the audience – revelled in every single moment.  

The BBC Proms attract millions and millions of viewers and listeners all around the world. Proms at the Castle didn’t draw quite those numbers but a good percentage of the 600+ concert audience introduced Tonbridge Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir to a lot of new supporters.  

As a celebration, the evening was absolutely perfect.

Review by:

Mrs Patricia Crawford BA (Hons), Dip Ed, Cert SSH

Concert programme:

Copland – Fanfare for the Common Man

Orff – O Fortuna – Carmina Burana

Holst – Jupiter -The Planets (I vow to thee my country with audience)

Brahms – Hungarian Dance no. 5. 5oloist: Robin Morrish (violin)

Bizet – Carmen Suite (Overture, Habanera, Aragonaise & Danse Boheme)

Handel – Zadok the Priest

Shostakovich – Festive Overture

Tchaikovsky – 1812 Overture

Wood – Fantasia on Sea Songs (Rule Britannia, with audience)

Elgar – Pomp & Circumstance March 1 (Land of Hope and Glory with audience)

Orff – O Fortuna

Beethoven – Ode to Joy Symphony No. 9  

Handel – Hallelujah chorus – Messiah

Audience Feedback:

@LoveTonbridge Haven’t had a chance before now, but just wanted to say what a brilliant time we had at the #Proms on Sunday @TonbridgeFest @TonbridgePhil About Proms at the Castle summer concert July 2016

@tonbridgedaily A rousing Rule Britannia at tonight’s castle proms. WOW #Tonbridge you can sing!!! Congratulations to @TonbridgePhil

About Proms at the Castle summer concert July 2016