Katharine Jenkins at Audley End

Last Night of the Audley End Proms, Sunday August 5

Last Night of the Audley End Proms, Sunday August 5

This picnic concert started at 7.30pm but the stalwarts were there from early afternoon with their tables, chairs umbrellas and all the accoutrements needed for gracious living.

By the off, there were, perhaps 10,000 people thronging the natural arena that slopes up from the impressive stately home.

If you'd forgotten your Union Flag for the inevitable patriotic finale these were available at £2 from the concert shop.

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The programme, packed with numbers we know and love, was adeptly performed by the Royal Philharmonic concert orchestra under the lively baton of Anthony Inglis.

There was no doubt who the star was - the gorgeous Welsh songbird Katherine Jenkins, whose captivating voice (and looks) have brought her chart topping classical albums. But there was another star - the Spitfire, piloted by Carolyn Grace - that twisted and turned, swooped and looped over the arena to the background of William Walton's Spitfire music from the film First of the Few. The unmistakable sound of the aircraft engine that fought the enemy in the skies over Europe was a real spine-tingler.

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As patriotic moments go, that was probably the best.

The appearance of Katherine Jenkins in the first of a succession of fabulous white frocks was a vision. Immediately a respectful pilgrimage of fans walked to the front of the arena to congregate at the feet of their heroine. Her mellifluous voice, at its most beautiful in the midrange, soared and dipped and praise must go to the sound technicians who produced all the musical and vocal sounds magnificently.

At the end of her songs, the acolytes dutifully trooped back to their picnic baskets only to return a bit later as Jenkins sang Carmen - this time in a sumptuous red gown with a theatrically long train. When she left the stage, they all turned to trudge back up the hill but she'd only gone to collect her tambourine and they all swivelled round and trotted back again!

Some stars who perform in a concert might show up, do a couple of numbers and then head off in their private helicopter. Not so Jenkins, who was on stage through most of the show and was deliciously friendly.

The final numbers - the Hornpipe arranged by Sir Henry Wood, Rule Britannia, Jerusalem and, of course Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance no 1(Land of Hope and Glory) were a noisy, flag-waving affair and Jenkins, mindful of the Englishness of Jerusalem, draped herself in the Welsh flag.

It was a truly memorable evening and praise must go too to the organisers who emptied the site of thousands of cars with such efficiency.

Next year, I'm going to be there earlier and with Pimms.

Lynne Mortimer

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