Twenty-four Days of Christmas at The Bridgewater Hall
Well Christmas is just a fading memory now but two things were more memorable than the turkey and mistletoe and wine. The Chorale participated in two brilliant concerts at the Bridgewater Hall over the Christmas period and great fun and good singing was had by all (including two arrangements of the Twelve Days of Christmas!).
The first was Christmas with Aled Jones, a new concert produced by the Raymond Gubbay organisation. From the rapturous applause throughout the concert, I think we can assume that it’s a winner and Aled had better put this in his diary for the next few Christmases. And us too, we hope.
As compere, Aled was the business, instantly engaging with everyone. He did a bit of singing; even took to the piano and sang a bit of Walking in the Air in falsetto to prove to the disbelieving audience he could still do it. His reading of the poem Twas the Night Before Christmas was masterfully complemented by the wonderful colours the Manchester Concert Orchestra created.
The main solo work that Aled used to do was performed by treble Lucas Pinto – Goodall’s The Lord is My Shepherd and Blake’s Walking in the Air. The tenor for the night was Jonathan Antoine. The Chorale accompanied both of them and Jonathan’s O Holy Night was the best Holy Night this writer has ever performed in – nice to hear a tenor singing over the top of us – powerful, emotional stuff.
Adrian Lucas was in charge of the music. Adrian is a very experienced choral conductor and knew what he wanted out of us – and got it. He had specially chosen three pieces for the choir to perform in French, German and Latin, the latter Peter Warlock’s Benedicamus Domine sung a cappella to an audience of over 2,000. What a great experience for us. We also sang Silent Night a cappella. (Aled told the audience that he’d heard us rehearse it and we were great, so listen up.) Magical – you could hear a pin drop at the end, and see the delight on Adrian's face.
We finished with We Wish You a Merry Christmas, which everyone joined in, until they realised we were doing the 4-part Warrell version and left it to us and the orchestra. ‘Now bring us some figgy pudding.’ It rocked. The Chorale sang in 23 pieces out of 28 and the concert ran over by half an hour (none of the audience left). We were exhausted by the end, but very satisfied. It’s one way to celebrate the winter solstice (it beats sacrificing virgins).
Our Musical Director Jill received an email from Adrian after the concert to say how much he had enjoyed it and looked forward to working with us again. Aled tweeted that he’d had a great time working with us. Our advice to readers is to book as soon as you can for next Christmas. For those of you who want to sing in a great choir in great concerts like this one, join us.
Next up, Christmas Eve at 3:00 pm is the traditional Christmas Carol Singalong at The Bridgewater Hall, where we all have fun and sing some super sacred and secular seasonal songs. The audience get to join in lots of the pieces. Their favourite is the aforementioned Twelve Days of Christmas, which is very physical: we do the actions for all 12 days and the audience try to keep up with us at a breakneck speed set by conductor/pianist/singer Jonathan Cohen. We believe there are 364 actions in total. The audience’s favourite is ‘Five go-old rings’, where they all jump out of their seats and make a ring shape with finger and thumb. There should be a defibrillator handy for this one – next to the basses.
It’s always full for this concert because the audience know they get their money’s worth. This year we had a new soprano soloist Louise Dearman, who amongst other good things sang the kid’s favourite song of all time Let It Go from the film Frozen, ably backed by a heavenly choir (The Manchester Chorale). Every kid in the audience sang/said: ‘The cold doesn’t bother me anyway.’ Amazing.
In this concert, we sing everything, from Noddy Holder to Vaughan Williams, from Rudolph to Hark! And we were back home in time for dinner (exhausted again), apart from those Chorale members who had a few hundred miles to drive to their loved ones.
As an aside, and just to let people know we do small gigs as well, just round the corner from The Bridgewater Hall is the Radisson Blu Hotel. The Chorale put on a series of carol quartets there for Afternoon Tea and Carols customers in the couple of weeks before Christmas. Every day we had a different quartet singing a cappella. No hiding place in a quartet. This writer thought singing about ‘figgy pudding’ was very appropriate. Reviews on TripAdvisor described the experience as 'magical' and 'delightful'. It was for us too.