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Battle Proms: The History Of The Battle Proms

May 01, 2017

Fresh air, good food, beautiful music and canon fire – is there anything you’d rather be doing on a summer’s evening? We didn’t think so! Over the warmer months Spice will be visiting 2 of the most fantastic Battle Proms performances in the country – Highclere Castle and Blenheim Palace. If you’ve never heard a Battle Proms performance before, or don’t even know what’s involved, you’re in for a treat! 


What Are The Battle Proms? 

The very first Battle Proms was performed at Battle Abbey in East Sussex in 1997. From this not so humble beginning the Battle Proms grew into the UK’s premier picnic concert series, set in the UK’s finest stately homes. The events are a celebration of Beethoven’s Battle Symphony, which was written in 1813 to celebrate Wellington’s victory over the French at the Battle of Vittoria. As you can imagine, the symphony is very patriotic and thrilling when performed, and the Battle Proms sources the finest musicians from all over the globe to play it. The Battle Proms have been performed for 20 years, so 2017 is sure to be a truly spectacular year. But the thing that makes the Battle Proms really, truly unique, is the choice of instruments. You see, this isn’t just any old open air symphony performance. The Battle Proms take the word ‘battle to a whole new level’, including 193 live firing cannons in their orchestral listing.


How Did The Battle Proms Come To Be? 

Battle Proms

I know what you’re thinking. How on earth did we end up combining a beautiful symphony performance with canons? Well, it all began because some bigwigs at the English Field Artillery Company wanted to make use of the 200 live firing replica Napoleonic cannons, which were taking up an awful lot of room. The only sensible use anyone could find for these massive weapons was in a performance of Beethoven’s ‘Battle Symphony’, which was scored to use 193 live firing cannon as a thunderous percussion section.


The Battle Proms took its name from the signature piece of the symphony ‘Battle Proms’, and it’s bizarre choice of percussion created quite a unique and spectacular twist for anyone who listened. But the cannons also made an appearance in other numbers, including the ‘1812 Overture’ which serves as the first half finale. Because using canon fire in a musical performance is no small task, the Battle Proms needed to be large scale outdoor events, and stately home owners were soon tripping over each other to offer up their properties as venues. Unsurprising really. Over the years’ the events have expanded to 5 stately homes across the country, and attendance to this open air even is always huge.


The Battle Proms is undoubtedly a once in a lifetime event, and it’s definitely been on our bucket list for a while. This year, Spice are running a group trip to 2 of these prestigious events, so you can enjoy the thrilling sound of cannon fire and beautiful music up close. Our first trip will be on Saturday the 22nd of July to Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, where we will picnic and soak up the atmosphere of the stunning location and amazing support acts before the main event. The second will be on Saturday the 5th of August to the Highclere Castle performance in Hampshire, which will take place on the lawns to give us a beautiful view and some time in the sunshine. Tickets for this date are £55 and filling fast, so don’t miss out – book yours today!


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