Let the Battle Proms commence at Warwickshire concert

MORE than 200 live cannons, a First World War Spitfire, some “ground-shaking” music and a firework finale will contribute to an explosive outdoor concert in Warwickshire this weekend.

Families and friends are encouraged to pack up a picnic and head to Ragley Hall tomorrow (Saturday) afternoon for the second annual Battle Proms at the grounds of the 17th century manor house.

Gates open at 4.30pm and the fun will begin with fairground stalls, Napoleonic re-enactors at their encampment and warm-up act The Rockabellas will take the lakeside stage.

Then at 6.45pm spectators can expect a thundering of hooves as the mounted cavalry invite them to discover the colour and chivalry of the Napoleonic era, demonstrating battlefield skill-at-arms with lances, rifles and superb horsemanship.

The gunners of the English Field Artillery Company will then herald the start of the evening’s musical programme with a volley of shots from an authentic vintage field gun in honour of the Queen’s Diamond.

The evening will continue with a wealth of soul-stirring favourites performed by the New English Concert Orchestra conducted by Douglas Coombes, including Massenet’s Meditation from Thais.

The opening piece will be accompanied by a meticulously choreographed aerial display by the Spitfire, and then the “battle” commences.

A Battle Proms spokeswoman said: “The ground shakes for Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture with live cannon fire – especially poignant in 2012 as we mark 200 years since Napoleon’s famous retreat from Moscow, which inspired its composition.

“This serves as a pyrotechnical warm up to the celebratory piece of music that gives the Battle Proms its name - Beethoven’s Wellington’s Victory, more commonly known as the ‘Battle Symphony’, performed with 193 cannons, musket fire and fireworks.

“The Battle Proms is the only regular open air concert in the world to perform this piece in full using live cannon with real black powder explosions, each fired electronically by the orchestra’s percussionist following the original score.”

The evening will close with a song-along, flag-waving proms finale - including favourites Jerusalem, Rule Britannia, God Save the Queen and Land of Hope and Glory - and culminating in what organisers are promising will be a “dazzling” firework spectacular.

Tickets bought today (Friday) cost £33 (£15 for children and free for under-fours) or £38 if bought at the gate tomorrow.

There is also a £2 discount for serving military personnel.

For tickets, call 01432 355416, go online or visit tourist information centres in Warwick and Stratford.