The Great Court of Blenheim Palace swung open its gates once again for another year of the Nocturne Live Concert Series, and what a year they had lined up! After hosting the likes of Noel Gallagher and Gary Barlow in 2018, the team behind this festival have not disappointed this year. Entering its fifth year at the UNESCO World Heritage Site, this relatively new festival is showing no signs of slowing down and is all set for an incredible year of talent.

With the pleasant June weather we were having, the lawns were full of people enjoying the abundance of food and drink on offer. Overlooking the Grand Bridge and the ‘finest view in England’, what more could you want?

20th June - Gladys Knight, Disco Classical plus Sister Sledge ft. Kathy Sledge, Gabrielle

All aboard the Soul Train! What a treat we had on the first day this year.
Gabrielle opened up this year’s proceedings in a set featuring plenty of songs to entertain the audience. The UK based singer came back in 2018 with her first album in 11 years, 25 years after her debut, and did not disappoint. In a hit packed set she featured classics including ‘Dreams’, ‘Walk on by’ and ‘Rise’, with newer hits like ‘Shine’ which sounded great alongside.
Although playing the second slot of the day, The Empress of Soul Gladys Knight headlined day one of the festival. The 70s soul icon wowed the crowd with a full back catalogue of hits including ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine’ the James Bond theme ‘Licence to Kill’ and finished the evening playing ‘Midnight Train to Georgia’. She took time out of her set to spread a message of peace and love and also recite tales from her past with The Pips, joining Motown Records, and how she released ‘Heard It Through The Grapevine’ first, but Marvin Gaye went on to release it the following year and it did pretty well!
With the sun almost set, Disco Classical plus Sister Sledge ft. Kathy Sledge took to the stage. The crowd were on their feet, the energy was electric, and the songs were pumping. Kathy Sledge was joined on stage singing by her daughter, and it seemed a real poignant moment for them both.
The day was rounded off in superb fashion with a cracking fireworks display during ‘We are family’, which was such an amazing way to see off day one in style.

21st June - Ms. Lauryn Hill, Laura Mvula, Mahalia

Day two started off with a performance from Mahalia, who set the tone for what was to come with some great sounding tracks. A highlight was a song called ‘I wish I missed my ex’ which had a powerful set of lyrics, as well as the hit song ‘Sober’.
Next up we had Laura Mvula, who carried on the strong female only line up so far with such powerful singing the crowd were enjoying every note that was sung. Laura was joined on stage by her brother playing Bass guitar for the first time, who proceeded to receive a few proposals from the audience by the sounds of it. Her song ‘Green Garden’ was a true highlight from the set and had the crowd singing along.
And then, what better way to end the evening than headliner Ms. Lauryn Hill. One of the biggest female singer-songwriters and rappers around. Formally of Fugee fame, this was one performance not to be missed. Although Ms. Hill was later on stage than was anticipated, DJ Reborn certainly had the audience ready to go the moment she walked out. Hill is currently celebrating over 20 years since the release of the iconic album ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’, and this tour is all about that. The energy in the crowd is electric and the audience are absolutely loving the powerful vocals and enthusiasm they are sung with. The set is covered with classics including ‘Everything is everything’, ‘Ex-Factor’ and the absolute banger ‘Doo Wop (That Thing)’ - these songs just don’t age.
An amazing way to finish the second day - a powerful female only first two days has certainly hit the right notes with the audience.

22nd June - Tears for Fears, White Lies, Scritti Politti

Day three began in glorious sunshine with Scritti Politti, the eighties synth-pop band sounding fresh and upbeat - no coincidence given that Green Gartside was celebrating his birthday playing the amazing venue. The band rattled through a number of hits taking the audience back in time.
Next up in this male orientated day were White Lies. The London indie rock band certainly won over a number of new fans during their set. Celebrating ten years since their debut album ‘To lose My Life’ was released, the band had a lot of hits to work their way through. Classics from ‘Farewell To The Fairground’, ‘Death’ and ‘To Lose My Life’ sound timeless amongst new tracks such as ‘Tokyo’ from their 2019 album. The band’s sound fitted right in with the vibe of the day, despite being sandwiched between two bands who found fame a few decades earlier!
As the sun was setting on this glorious day, the pop rock duo Tears for Fears hit the stage, and what an opener they chose to come out with. The band played an amazing rendition of ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’ and the audience are immediately transported back in time to a happy place. Those first few notes are so iconic. The set is a great mix of lesser known tracks, as well as timeless classics such as ‘Woman In Chains’, ‘Mad World’ and ‘Shout’ which the audience loudly sung along with and enjoyed every second.

23rd June - Kylie Minogue, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Hackney Colliery Band

The final day, day four, was opened up by the Hackney Colliery Band. The East London collective have entered their tenth year, with a number of high profile collaborations to their name. They worked hard to get people off their seats with an energetic Nivarna cover and finished with a fitting tribute to Keith Flint, playing ‘Out of space’.
The penultimate act of the weekend, was Disco Dancing Lover Sophie Ellis-Bextor, who put on a great show priming the audience for what was about to happen. In a bright yellow dress, she had the audience singing along to her hit songs - opening with ‘Wild Forever’, ‘Get Over You’ and the crowd were all up dancing along with her when she finished with the smash hit ‘Murder on the dancefloor’. A stunning voice and performer who primed the crowd for what they were about to see!
And then it happened, pop princess Kylie Minogue entered the stage, and what an entrance! A full production show took place in the Great Court, with an energetic set of fantastic dancers, larger than life props, and a back catalogue full of songs from the 80’s through to today. With at least four outfit changes taking place, she gave the audience everything they wanted and more - especially the young lad she got up on stage (and the slightly older chap!). No stone left unturned as she played songs from her forthcoming greatest hits collection from the likes of ‘I should be so lucky’, ‘Kids’ and ‘Can’t get you out of my head’. A big costume change to the next act saw the iconic ‘Especially For You’ alongside ‘Better the devil you know’ and ‘The Loco-Motion’, which saw conga lines starting down the middle isles. This crowd were being spoilt tonight! The evening finished with two of the more modern numbers of ‘Dancing’ and ‘Spinning Around’, leaving the majority of the audience dizzy from dancing and a rousing ovation from the crowd nothing short of what this stunning performance deserved followed. Kylie goes on to perform the legends slot at Glastonbury this year - the crowd at the Pyramid are in for a treat!

Another great year from the team behind the Nocturne Live Concert Series. Fingers crossed they are back in 2020 with another amazing set of artists to compliment this stunning venue. The Series has become a pillar of the Oxfordshire Music Calendar - let’s keep it that way!

Photo credit: Russell Fujak