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It's classic entertainment

PUBLISHED: 12:59 30 July 2001 | UPDATED: 10:23 03 March 2010

THEY went armed with picnics, fold-away chairs and high expectations.

They left with Union Jacks, flashing deely-boppers and a buzz of excitement.

The second night of the Ipswich Spectacular had been everything the crowd wanted, and more.

THEY went armed with picnics, fold-away chairs and high expectations.

They left with Union Jacks, flashing deely-boppers and a buzz of excitement.

The second night of the Ipswich Spectacular had been everything the crowd wanted, and more.

People had travelled from as far afield as Norwich and London to sing, dance and clap-a-long to Hooked on Classics – and they had the time of their lives.

The weather and setting were perfect as nearly 3,000 people congregated in the concert bowl in Christchurch Park, last night.

Up and down the hill people lay out on blankets or sat at tables, the occasional few decorated with cloths and candlesticks, and opened up picnic hampers and bottles of wine as they prepared themselves for a sophisticated evening of classical music.

By the end of the night this sophisticated air was to be replaced with a lively, fun atmosphere as people, festooned in novelty headwear, danced about waving Union Flags – showing the inimitable patriotic spirit which Ipswich never fails to encourage.

This was a concert for people of all ages, with toddlers skipping about at the front of the stage and pensioners having an equally good time.

And it was a night for celebration as announcements about wedding anniversaries and birthdays were shouted out from the stage.

But this was a party with a difference. Ipswich Spectacular organiser John Hessenthaler had wanted a concert to give classical music a kick up the backside and Hooked on Classics gave it a kick like no other.

From the minute the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra took their seats, crammed together on the stage, and acclaimed conductor Louis Clark picked up his baton to signal the first note of the night to be played, the crowd were willingly taken through medley after medley of classical music.

Arrangements of individual works and themes ensured there were sufficient traditional classics to whet people's musical appetites as instantly-recognisable tunes seamlessly flowed in to one another, although they were occasionally drowned out by the orchestra's seemingly over-enthusiastic drummer.

Hooked on Classics wasn't just about Mozart, Tchaikovsky and the like, however, as the orchestra turned to music a little more contemporary and launched into Beatles medleys, American folk songs, Scottish ditties and a sample of Abba, which complemented the first night of the Ipswich Spectacular perfectly.

And in honour of what Louis Clark called the finest British establishment, he downed a pint of beer before turning to the orchestra which began a classical tribute to pub songs.

The audience got in to the full spirit of the occasion and tapped their feet, clapped their hands and got out of their seats to dance and sing-along at every opportunity.

As the first few bars of the can-can were heard, there was a surge of dozens of people to the front of the stage as complete strangers linked arms with each other for some high-kicking dancing in true can-can style.

The crowd called out for more and the audience was treated to two encores of the tune, the second being the finale number which was accompanied by a spectacular firework display.

The last chords of the orchestra began to die, but the explosion of colour continued as the sky above Christchurch Park lit up, bringing the show to an end.

By 10.30pm people were picking up their belongings and heading home.

But a ripple of excitement and happiness followed them as they went.

They had bought their tickets for a great night out and had certainly got their money's worth.

John Hessenthaler has said he will be back again next year and, if that's the case, so will many of the people who enjoyed his show.

The people of Ipswich are hooked on an event which must by now be the envy of many other town or even city. See you there next year!

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