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Rochester Castle Concerts 2018: Five days of live music

By Angela Cole

Rochester's Castle Concerts hit a high note this week as they mark 25 years. Here, we look at the line-up and speak exclusively to a local star - who's quite famous further afield too - Jools Holland.

With their picturesque setting in Rochester Castle Gardens, the Castle Concerts have been attracting sell-out crowds to party and promenade the night away for 25 years.

Organised by Medway Council, stars who have taken to the stage over the years have included Craig David, Van Morrison and Blondie.

The Castle Concerts Proms encourage plenty of flag waving Picture: Steve Crispe
The Castle Concerts Proms encourage plenty of flag waving Picture: Steve Crispe

Thousands are attracted to the relaxed, party atmosphere, with most nights sell-outs year in, year out. They have grown from a small series of music events to a highlight in the music calendar.

Running from Tuesday, July 10 to Saturday, July 14, this year they will be kicked off by the Australian Pink Floyd Show on Tuesday, July 10, followed by Jools Holland and his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra on Wednesday, July 11, with special guest Marc Almond and Gilson Lavis with guest vocalists Ruby Turner, Louise Marshall and Rosie Mae.

Sophie Ellis-Bextor will be performing at the Rochester Castle Concert series
Sophie Ellis-Bextor will be performing at the Rochester Castle Concert series

Ronan Keating will perform on Thursday, July 12 with Sophie Ellis-Bextor and TOWIE star Megan McKenna.

Friday, July 13 sees a sell-out night for UB40 featuring Ali, Astro and Mickey while on the final night, special guests Jo Appleby, Oliver Tompsett and the Hertfordshire Chorus, conducted by Michael Reed, and Stringfever, will join the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the castle Proms on Saturday, 14 July.

The picnic-style concert will see plenty of flag-waving to draw the Castle Concerts series draws to a close, topped off with dancing water fountains and a firework display finale.

Ronan Keating will perform at Rochester Castle
Ronan Keating will perform at Rochester Castle

A HOME GIG

Jools Holland may have picked up an OBE at Buckingham Palace, was made a Deputy Lieutenant of Kent in 2006 for services to music and has performed around the world, but Rochester's Castle Concerts are special as they are a home gig for him.

“Rochester is one of the most beautiful cities and I think it’s one of the most incredible venues, especially when the sun sets behind the castle and the cathedral. Playing in the enclosure of the castle has a magical atmosphere.”

No stranger to the concerts, he was a regular for many years, but this year is a return after a six-year break.

Since his first recording session in 1976, Jools has sold millions of records and performed to thousands around the world, from local pubs to Madison Square Gardens. A career highlight was last year's performance on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury with his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra.

"Something happens when you are on the stage – you connect with the people. We hope our music has the same effect on them that it does on us. It’s an amazing feeling. Music is an amazing and powerful thing - it’s like a puzzle that you can never figure out, an enigma that you are infatuated with. Music makes people dance and feel amorous and melancholic.”

He plays the concerts on Wednesday, July 11, with his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra.

“We have got a lot of musicians on stage and there’s a lot to get in," he said. "One of the things in our music is a lot of joy. Our music includes pop, blues, gospel, ska and boogie-woogie music.

Jools Holland will bring his orchestra to Rochester's Castle Concerts Picture: Mary McCartney
Jools Holland will bring his orchestra to Rochester's Castle Concerts Picture: Mary McCartney

“It’s a very powerful and big sound; it’s very dynamic and made by lots of people. Some people just fit in with the big band, and Ruby Turner and Louise Marshall are part of it. It needs a lot of power and attitude.”

Describing singer Ruby as ‘unique’ he added: “There is no question that she’s the greatest exponent of blues and gospel. She seems to go right back to the root of it and has that thing that makes you want to dance and jump up and down.”

Also performing on the night as a special guest is Marc Almond. Jools said of him: “Marc is an integral part of the show. His voice works in a unique and extraordinary way with the Rhythm & Blues Orchestra; something gels when it comes to working with Marc, who is also an internationally acclaimed and successful artist, as well as an influence to a generation of musicians. Marc is a dear friend and we are working on an album together.”

He revealed that when it comes to writing new music, he has even drawn inspiration from Kentish birdsong. “I get inspiration by playing all the time, as well as at home as I can explore quietly and try out music. Ideas come to me all the time. Last year we went to Hoo peninsula marshes and recorded the piano answering the bird song. It was fascinating. We put a piano in the shed and listened to the bird song.”

Ruby Turner will join Jools Holland and his orchestra
Ruby Turner will join Jools Holland and his orchestra

He has played with musicians around the world, but who would he perform with if he could pick anyone? "I think you could put a fantastic super group together. Bach on the strings, Bessie Smith singing and John Lennon on the guitar… and Charles Dickens could write the words!”

His TV show, Later… with Jools Holland, which is filmed at Maidstone Studios, has just come to the end of its 52nd series. He said: “It’s important we have a mix of artists on the show, from well-known to new artists, as well as different styles of music and a great legend. The thing I am most proud about the show is that there isn’t another like it. It’s a great advertisement for the area and Britain and its musical values, as no one makes a show like it anywhere else in the world.”

DETAILS

For tickets and more information, visit thecastleconcerts.co.uk or the Brook Theatre in Chatham, The Central Theatre in Chatham, the Visitor Information Centre in Rochester High Street or call 01634 338 338. UB40 featuring Ali, Astro and Mickey is sold out.

Last year's Castle Concerts fun for Lynne Howard and Karon Vander-Heiden. Picture: Steve Crispe
Last year's Castle Concerts fun for Lynne Howard and Karon Vander-Heiden. Picture: Steve Crispe

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