I have absolutely no idea where the last year has gone, unlike, of course, Latin lessons at school when I would be watching the clock hoping the big hand would move a little faster.

At this time year, every year, we welcome a wonderful gathering of friends and other friends who then brought another seven thousand of their friends to set up picnics on a fortuitously sunny evening, on the large grass area in front of the Castle for the annual Battle Proms concert.

There are so many things I enjoy about this event. First of all, perhaps, is the fact that it has now taken place here for 21 years which is somehow reassuring given that both we and it are still here. It is also a peculiarly British event – one huge picnic and outside entertainment in our notoriously unpredictable summer weather. Undaunted we always carry on but once again we were lucky.

It is then a glorious mixture of old cavalry charge displays more reminiscent of the 19th century combined with singing which takes us back to the 1940’s. Early in the evening, a spitfire circles overhead, the elliptical wings so graceful, climbing, rolling and all of us stand in silence listening to the unique sound of the engine.

Throughout the evening we listen to wonderfully familiar classical music, sing along without quite knowing all the words and gaze in fascination at the spectacular fireworks.

We do not often organise fireworks here because they are not enjoyed by most animals nor all people but every so often they are a lot of fun, bringing us all together, lighting up the darkness with colours and shapes fantastical.

Fireworks were first created by the Chinese and only really made their way to Europe in the Tudor times. The wedding of Henry VII in 1486 was marked by fireworks and Elizabeth I much enjoyed them – so much so that she created a “Fire Master of England”. William Shakespeare mentions fireworks, for example in “Love’s Labour’s Lost” and the misuse of pyrotechnics – gunpowder – was the cause of the fire which destroyed the original Globe Theatre.  Two hundred years later in 1749, Handel wrote the Music for the Royal Fireworks to celebrate a peace treaty.

The Hindi festival of Diwali celebrates the success of light overcoming darkness from the Sanskrit words dīpa meaning “lamp, light, lantern, candle, that which glows, shines, illuminates or knowledge”. Apart from the obvious aspect of celebration of light, it is more reflective remembering those who are not with us and thinking about self-knowledge and understanding.

In contrast, the concert last night was simply of the moment. I am not sure many of us think very deeply about what we are all enjoying as we are there for the fun and friendship but there is no doubt that music allows us to connect to both our emotions and a feeling of togetherness.

Research suggests that singing alters the hormones and neurotransmitters in our brains, specifically the ones which boost our mood and our immune system. Undoubtedly it reduces stress and I would have thought is good for breathing and confidence as we leave the Covid years behind us.

It was so clear that the covid isolation was unbelievably detrimental to people and that modern lives can be rather lonely but singing and choirs are a very old way of bringing people together and decreasing feelings of anxiety not to mention offering a breathing space from the overwhelming brain-chatter of all of our gadgets and short-term incessant news.

“Then the singing enveloped me. It was ….. coming from everyone’s very heart. There was no sense of performance or judgment, only that the music was breath and food.”