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HAMPTON COURT PALACE FESTIVAL HIGHLIGHTS

Will Gore previews this year’s Hampton Court Palace Festival, which will feature the likes of Van Morrison and Dionne Warwick

The sound of Art Garfunkel’s warbling, Bryan Adams’s rasping and Eric Clapton’s 15-minute guitar solos reverberating around Hampton Court Palace is certainly not what Cardinal Wolsey had in mind for the building when he rebuilt it in 1514. But whether the cardinal, or Henry VIII for that matter, would have liked it or not, in the last 22 years the Hampton Court Palace Festival has become as much an attraction for visitors to the palace as the famous maze and great hall.

Among a crowded summer festival circuit in London, Hampton Court’s annual run of concerts has firmly established itself as one of the biggest and best music festivals that the capital has to offer. Since the first one, back in 1992, thousands of fans have passed through the palace gates to picnic and party to a variety of bona fide music legends and fast-rising stars. As well as the aforementioned trio of Clapton, Garfunkel and Adams, others to take to the Hampton Court stage include Brian Wilson, Elton John and Ringo Starr. Katherine Jenkins, Bryn Terfel, and Andrea Bocelli are just a few of the big names from the classical music world who can also count themselves as festival alumni.

Hampton Court Palace Festival

Beach Boys back in action

This year’s Hampton Court Palace Festival runs from June 11 to 25, and once again there’s plenty in the programme for music fans to pick from. Dionne Warwick will be performing on June 13 and can’t wait for her date at the Palace. “I am thrilled and look forward to coming back to the UK this summer as this will be my first performance at Hampton Court Palace Festival,” she says.

During a legendary career that has spanned five decades, she has notched up numerous hits, including Walk On By, Do You Know the Way to San Jose? and Heartbreaker. She promises that her audience will hear all of these songs and more at the Hampton Court gig. “I am told that it is such a special and unique experience at Hampton Court and, of course, all will be treated to a concert of favourite songs that will be familiar to their ears and also a few new ones from my recently released 50th Anniversary album,” she adds.

Hampton Court Palace Festival

Van Morrison will be wooing the crowds

Other star names include Van Morrison (June 16), Jamie Cullum (June 17) and guitar maestro George Benson (June 23), while two gigs from The Beach Boys also stand out from the programme. If the weather is fine then a run through of the band’s many hits, including I Get Around, Help Me Rhonda and Surfin’ USA, promises to be the perfect soundtrack for a summer night’s party.

One performer who rarely disappoints is perennial Hampton Court favourite Jools Holland, who is back to open the festival with two gigs (June 11-12). Along with his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra, he’ll be welcoming a load of guests to sing alongside him, with Marc Almond, Ruby Turner and former Spice Girl Mel C set to appear. And the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra will treat classical music buffs to a spectacular performance on June 14. The programme features pieces by Mozart, Tchaikovsky, and Strauss, and there will be some fireworks off stage too to cap off the evening.

Hampton Court Palace Festival

Jools Holland & his little band

And finally, it’s worth pointing out what could be, simultaneously, the most ludicrous and entertaining show of the whole 2014 festival. Two 80s pop legends, Rick Astley and Jason Donovan, are teaming up for a double-header concert (June 20) in which they will get their hits out for their adoring, enduring fans. Songs including Never Going to Give You Up and Too Many Broken Hearts will surely have the crowd partying like it’s 1989 and Astley, who has recently moved to Hampton Court, is relishing the prospect of teaming up with Donovan for the show.

“I am overjoyed to be playing at the Palace this year,” he says. “I only live four minutes away, so Jason and I are going to have a garden party before the concert. It’ll be like a home gig and the perfect way to start the summer.”

Hampton Court Palace Festival, June 11 to 25, for more information and to book tickets visit hamptoncourtpalacefestival.com

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