Hastings’ own Last Night at the Proms

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Review: Battle of Hastings Proms, Alexandra Park. Thursday, July 5.

THE songbirds in the trees of Alexandra Park had their beaks well and truly put out of joint when the Big Top of the Hastings Wine & Beer Festival resounded to the choir of Roger Wilcocks’ third annual Prom, proving yet again that it is not necessary to spend three years at an Italian conservazione to be able to produce a musical note.

Combine Roger’s expert tuition with his choir’s dedication of one evening a week for eight weeks beforehand (promising to practise each day if only for five mnutes) for his sopranos, mezzo-sopranos and contraltos, and three additional rehearsals for his tenors, baritones and basses and Hey Presto! a programme which was Hastings’ very own version of Last Night at the Proms.

The first half began and ended with military melodies, ‘Shropshire lad’ Walford Dvies’s RAF March Past, and Ron Goodwin’s theme 633 Squadron. In between came the Toreador March and Song from Bizet’s Carmen, memories of Queen with Bohemian Rhapsody and from Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld the Can-Can. The choir with piano accompaniment demonstrated their talents in a selection including the lyrical One Voice, Leonard Bernstein’s Tonight from West Side Story, and the evocative O Sole Mio. The audience were included in the spiritual Swing Low Sweet Chariot, applauded the male chorus in Nessum Dorma with Paul Sedgewick, and joined enthusiasically in the first half conclusion with a singalong from Lionel Bart’s Oliver!

Opening the second half were two contrasting pieces, Eric Coates’ Dambusters March and Nimrod, the ninth of Elgar’s Enigma Variations, dedicated to his lifelong friend. The appearance of two Scottish pipers in full dress regalia for Highland Cathedral was greeted with glee. Rosie Willcocks provided a delighful contrast with her harp in the Irish Danny Boy incorporating the Uillean Pipes, with the ladies’ section contrbuting the Military Wives feature Wherever You Are.

The evening ended in traditional fashion with the ever-popular Land of Hope and Glory, Rule Brittania featuring soloist Douglas Edwards, the National Anthem and its local counterpart Sussex by the Sea, the cue for the choir to exit the platform leaving Roger to bring the evening to a close wth his Instant Choir, fragments of all the numbers time did not permit.

Marrion Wells