Rolling up the drive to Highclere Castle felt like being invited to one of Lady Cora’s weekend get-togethers. Which, come to think of it, I suppose it was. The setting, familiar to all Downton Abbey fans, is stunning, and the day was blessed with beautiful weather.
An Iron Age Hill Fort dominates the landscape and an early Anglo-Saxon charter suggests people have lived here for some 1300 years.
On Sunday, they were out in force for the ‘Heroes at Highclere’ event, a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the First World War, and were wowed by aerial displays from a Spitfire and Tiger Moths, the Red Devils Parachute Regiment freefall team and a 1944 Mustang called Ferocious Frankie which has a top speed of 505mph. There were eight hot air balloons from the Army Air Corps, helicopters, and a vintage car display.
The band came together from various directions - Simon and Rowan returning from family holidays in the West Country, Ron making the long drive from Colchester, myself and Nick a short hop from West London, while Sadie flew down from filming the Downton Christmas Special in the North East - to perform on the big stage along with Alexandra Burke, The Military Wives Choir, The Rock Choir and three part vocal harmony group The Spitfire Sisters.
We gathered in the dressing room for a pre-gig rehearsal, Rowan banging out the rhythms on the table-top, complete with rattling cups and saucers. Warming up voices and fingers, reminding ourselves of the arrangements. Some things work well on record but a live performance is something different and arrangements are constantly evolving. A key change here and there, the odd STOP or two.
No soundcheck, which is always a bit of a nightmare, just a quick line-check, which involved a last minute change as we discovered one of Sadie’s guitars wasn’t working. No time to panic though… we’re on.
After an introduction from Hugh Bonneville, the opening riff of ‘Superficial’ kicks the party into life and the girls sashay on. Chris does a marvellous job of the sound out front and we’re soon in the groove… ‘All My Sins’, ‘Staying Alive’, ‘Everybody’s Got A Song’, ‘Use It Up’ and ‘Nothing New’. The sun is shining, Sadie’s smiling and, before we know it, it’s time to head off for a photo shoot with the lovely, talented Kirsty Grant… no doubt you’ll be seeing the results shortly.
Thank you to everyone who came and supported us.