As the sun sets over the Castle, a warm orange glow descends on the crowd, the magical sound of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra echoes across the natural amphitheatre of the Kentish parkland and overhead a Spitfire pirouettes in a colourful sky. The sight of the sun reflecting off the elliptical wings of the Spitfire over the 12th Century Castle combined with the opening bars to Walton’s Prelude and Fugue “The Spitfire” evokes cheers and tears from the crowd for a truly memorable performance.
The Leeds Castle Classical Concert is the largest open air classical concert in the country and the choreography that goes behind staging an event on this scale has to be seen to be believed.
Here are the top 10 facts from behind the scenes:
1. Around 100 staff work behind the scenes to ensure the event runs smoothly ranging from event coordinators to security to caterers.
2. Each member of the 2016 Classical Concert event team walked around 252,000 steps over the nine days of the build and de-rigging of the event.
3. The stage and concert site set up takes a week to build including over 3,000 metres of temporary fencing laid out across the grounds of the Castle along with 42 lighting stands.
4. The stage hosts the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, an 81-piece band, a sound and lighting desk, microphone stands and conductor’s podium. Two large TV screens either side of the stage broadcast live footage manned by a team of six throughout the event.
5. The classical concert celebrated its 38th year in 2016 with over 10,000 people attending, many with picnics and fold up chairs complete with bunting, flags and champagne. Many concert-goers don fancy dress, full finery such as tuxedos and ball gowns and patriotic colours. Meanwhile around 1,000 concert-goers prefer the relaxed intimacy of the seated VIP areas close to the stage.
6. At the top of Concert hill around 100 mini gazebos enjoy perhaps the most impressive view of any outdoor classical concert with the crowd below and the Castle as a backdrop. At the edge of the tree line halfway up concert hill (between the 4th and 5th hole of the 90 year old golf course) twenty Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers from the 7 Aviation Support Battalion can be found dining in their dress uniform with a formal silver service dinner complete with candelabra!
7. Backstage 181 performers’ meals are provided to artists, sound and lighting technicians and stage management compared to around 400 hospitality meals in the VIP tents and Fairfax Restaurant.
8. Over 100 bottles of Champagne are consumed by VIP guests without counting the many bottles of bubbly across the crowd.
9. A 1940s Spitfire entertains the crowd with an eight minute routine. The aircraft operates out of Headcorn Aerodrome and requires a flight liaison officer on the ground to coordinate timings.
10. The grand finale is a dramatic firework display to Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture combined with Cannons. In excess of 1,000 fireworks are released in seven minutes using over 2,000 metres of cable. The showstopper at the 2016 concert was one of the largest fireworks to ever display in the country. A 300mm shell rocketed into the air from the launch tube at 200 miles an hour and reached an impressive height of 1,000ft producing a golden strobe willow with sparkling purple pistil creating the most spectacular finale.