THOUSANDS of people gathered for Cheshire’s biggest garden party which helped turn the Cholmondeley Castle fireworks concert into one of the year’s most memorable events.
Picnicking revellers stretched back as far as the eye could see on Saturday (July 19) for the annual celebration at the county landmark which was given added significance this year as one of the focal points of Cheshire Year of Gardens.
To mark the occasion, the event had been enhanced with a free funfair which kept people of all ages happy from the moment the gates opened at 2pm with a big wheel, helter skelter, carousel and side shows.
The grounds and gardens of Cholmondeley Castle remained open throughout the event for visitors to wander through and, perhaps unexpectedly, the event was blessed with a lot of sunshine and not a drop of rain!
The musical entertainment began shortly before 7pm with the traditional curtain raiser, a performance by the excellent Mossley Brass Band whose varied programme ranged from “The Floral Dance” to Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro” and concluded with “Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom”.
As usual, though, the main attraction was the fabulous Manchester Camerata, led, as ever at Cholmondeley, by the engaging enthusiasm of conductor Timothy Redmond, who kicked off their selection with Walton’s rousing “Crown Imperial” before fully embracing the Year of Gardens theme.
This ranged from classics to popular melodies, including Puccini’s “Flower Duet”, Tchaikovsky’s “Waltz of the Flowers”, Vaughan Williams “Fantasia on Greensleeves”, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Climb Every Mountain” from “The Sound of Music” and, not surprisingly, Grainger’s arrangement of “English Country Garden”.
At the interval, there was another variation on previous years with the most stylish couple competition, judged by a panel which included The Chronicle’s features editor Gil Lightfoot.
The finalists included couples from all over the area, including Alison and Russell Rourke from Upton, Chester, but was won by a couple from Nantwich.
The second half of the concert got under way with the overture from Patrick Doyle’s music for Kenneth Branagh’s screen version of “Much Ado About Nothing”.
But when darkness descended, it was time for the spectacular climax to the event as the Camerata performed Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance” and Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” during a breathtaking fireworks display looking across the Cholmondeley Castle lake.