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Althorp Hall - Northamptonshire
Jools Holland Big Band
June 25th 2004

The Stage

It being the first week of Wimbledon and Glastonbury weekend gives you an idea of how the weather had been for the previous few days, I think it was Wednesday when Wimbledon achieved the historic record of no play at all due to the sheer volume of rain falling across England.  Friday itself had been dry but variable so we packed plenty of warm clothes and I nipped down to the DIY store at lunchtime and picked up a large plastic dustsheet, if worse came to worse and it poured down we could just pull the thing right over the lot of us.

Did we need it? Did we heck!

Friday turned out to have the perfect English summers evening, wall to wall sunshine with no trace of even a slight breeze.   Sunset was 21:29 but it was still light way past that.   Set in the posh end of Northamptonshire Althorp Hall has a fine set of black wrought iron gates and on driving through them the Hall is approached via a long narrow drive across gently rolling wooded fields with sheep grazing on either side.  We parked up, shouldered our chairs, coolboxes and woolies and followed the trickle of people heading for the concert field.  Our path led us right acroos the front of Althorp Hall, which I found slightly disappointing, I had expected something bigger, grander and more impressive.  I had assumed it would have been built out of the local deep orange sandstone rather than brick, still, it's bigger than my place!

Althorp House

Past the Hall and we were directed through a Tuscan style Stable block, this time built from the deep orange local sandstone, and although somewhat at odds with the Hall itself, more in keeping with the materials of the surrounding villages.

Althorp stables
Several companies were offering their wares for sale but Green & Black, the organic chocolate people, had the most lovely young ladies with great wicker baskets full of free samples which they handed out to all and sundry as we entered the concert field.   The chocolate was very nice although to tell the truth I could quite happily have eaten one or more of the young women!  Towards the end of the evening as it cooled down somewhat it was the stall selling hot coffee that had the queue, running quite some way up the field.   I hope that the beer tent franchise hadn't cost much, they didn't have any customers let alone a queue.

Early evening

crowd view crowd view
And so!  To the Concert.  The early evening support slot was taken up by a fine young singer with some original tunes on a Blues theme.  Just a shame they were so depressing, we had to lock everything sharp in the coolboxes, to my shame I cannot remember her name, however I feel sure that she must be Leonard Cohen's daughter.

The Dancers Then came the Big Band, on to a bit of a shaky start, as I'm not quite sure how many keys they were playing in but there was definitely more than one.  A little more reheasing might have been a good idea.  From then on though things picked up with Sam Brown doing a fine bit of screeching and Ruby Turner doing a fine bit of belting.  The whole evening went off really well with the audience loving every minute.

I missed so many good shots of indivdual dancers that I can only apologise for listening to the music rather than thinking of this webpage.  Two encores were to be expected and were delivered admirably but we hadn't expected the fireworks.  A really good pyrotechnic display rounded the evening off nicely.  The only task left was to get out of the car park, an experience that previous concerts had shown could be difficult.  But where were those Taxi's going?   Top tip for anyone leaving Althorp Hall - FOLLOW THE TAXI'S !

Dedicated to all of those people who presumably got soaked on Saturday at the 'Last Night of the Proms' concert, I feel for you.