THE South's season of outdoor concerts in the grounds of stately homes went off with a bang as fireworks provided an encore at the opening night at Exbury Gardens in the New Forest.

The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, conducted superbly by the masterful Edward Warren, left no one in any doubt that it was relishing its tour of top venues.

Before starting the Daily Echo-sponsored concert with Gershwin's rousing Strike Up The Band, Mr Warren displayed his customary humour, saying: "It was always known very irreverently in the music business as Bike Up the Strand."

Despite the calm and dry weather on June 11, 1999, a 5,000-strong picnic-partying audience had to opt for warm coats and blankets over many of its knees.

Orchestra executive Malcolm Pfaff paid tribute to the support given to the event by Exbury owners, the de Rothschild family.