Lytham Proms: Russell Watson

Under blue skies on a pleasant, if breezy, evening in leafy Lytham around 10,000 festival goers gathered on Lytham Green for the musical highlight of the year.

Started in 2010, the first Proms was a ‘one-night-stand’ organised to commemorate the Battle of Britain’s 70th Anniversary.  Soprano Lesley Garrett appeared and the concert was such a success, sold out in fact, that the festival organisers Daniel Cuffe and Peter Taylor realised that the Fylde Coast was ready for the festival experience.

In 2011 we saw Status Quo, Katherine Jenkins and Boyzone each headline their own evening.  Last year brought a theme night to Friday, the 80’s, with Rick Astley and Bananarama.  Home-grown talent in the form of Alfie Boe led the ‘Last Night of the Proms’ on the Saturday evening with X-factor finalist Olly Murs rounding off the Festival on the Sunday. That’s the winning formula for Lytham Proms; an evening for everyone – whatever taste in music, young and old.

This year was no exception – the 80’s evening on Friday, ‘people’s tenor’, Russell Watson, for the Saturday Prom Spectacular and Sunday saw the latest chart topper, Rita Ora, raise the roof.

Back to the breezy Saturday evening on Lytham Green. Picnic tables had been set up, hampers emptied, champagne corks popped and the crowd, a few wrapped in car rugs to ward of the chill of the evening, awaited the arrival on stage of Russell Watson, the UK’s best-selling classical artist.

Russell, supported by the National Symphony Orchestra which was conducted by Matthew Gunner, started off the evening with the classic O Sole Mio, followed by Speak Softly, aka the theme from The Godfather, and John Denver’s Perhaps Love. Russell took a short break and Jonathon and Charlotte took the stage with their own version of Perhaps Love, also the title from their second album which is due for release in October. Russell returned with To Dream the Impossible Dream and the audience, encouraged by Watson, then began to join in with Never Walk Alone with the obligatory swaying of arms. Any die hard Blackpool FC supporters were joining in with the singing because it’s from the musical Carousel of course! The first half was brought to a close with a beautiful harp introduction to Bring Him Home from Les Miserables.

Interval over, the orchestra played a tribute to John Barry with music from the movies.  A spot of ‘guess which film’ ensued as they played the theme from James Bond’s You Only Live Twice – a personal favourite of mine even before Robbie Williams sampled it in Millennium. Out of Africa and Born Free followed. Russell returned to the stage with the Union Jack as a back drop and a tribute to last year’s Olympics in the form of Chariots of Fire – the Olympic theme – Volare (which, incidentally, was the Italian entry to the Eurovision in 1958) and the catchy Funiculi, Funicula followed.

Jonathan and Charlotte returned to sing the powerful Angel (commonly called The Arms of an Angel) and there was a lovely moment when Charlotte appeared to turn to give Jonathan a wink – maybe of reassurance – as he sang his solo – perfectly.  Their performance concluded with The Prayer, at the end of which the audience rose to its feet to give then a well-deserved standing ovation and I would have to admit I felt a little like a proud parent!

The final segment arrived and Russell brought us songs from Elvis, Can’t Help Falling in Love, and Westlife’s You Raise Me Up.  This lead us nicely into energetic flag waving to Jerusalem, building up the atmosphere as the rest of the stars joined Russell on the stage for the rousing Land of Hope and Glory – complete with a spectacular display of fireworks which lit up the night sky.

Lytham Proms Festival is fast becoming a ‘must do’ not just for the folk on the Fylde Coast but across Lancashire, if not beyond, and rightly so.  It was a great evening and I’m already planning my picnic for next year.

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