Grand Christmas concert in Brighton

Brighton Festival Chorus, Brighton Festival Youth Choir and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra combine to launch the Christmas celebrations in Brighton.

James Morgan
James Morgan

James Morgan will be conductor, Juliette Pochin mezzo-soprano and Nicky Spence tenor on Sunday, December 11 at 4pm in Brighton Dome Concert Hall.

bfc will be singing a mix of old and new music, including the first movement of Bach’s Magnificat, the traditional Sussex Carol and national favourite O Holy Night.

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But just as last year, there will also be a chance for an audience member to step up and conduct the orchestra, as James explains.

Ticket-holders can submit their name in an email to [email protected] with Hallelujah as the subject line. The draw will be held during the concert and the winner invited to the conductor’s podium – while James pops to the bar for a drink.

“The person who did it last year couldn’t read music and didn’t know the Hallelujah chorus, but it was great, and I had a nice drink. It went really well apart from a bit where the music stops deliberately and the guy just carried on conducting!

“I thought we would just do it again this year. The chap last year didn’t even know he had been put up for it. His wife had put his name in!”

It’s all part of the audience participation the concert will require, a key element in the mix as far as James is concerned.

“This is our 12th year doing a Christmas concert. They didn’t for a long time, and it was something that was introduced not long after I became director. It’s an important part of the Christmas celebrations. Brighton didn’t appear to have a big Christmas concert where everyone could come along and sing along. It was my idea, but a Christmas concert is hardly an original idea! But it just really works.”

Another popular tradition is that children in the audience submit jokes during the interval, which are read out by James during the second half of the concert.

James has been conductor now for 15 or more years: “It’s great fun. I really enjoy the connection, especially at the Christmas concert. You start up with the first hymn with the full orchestra and the choir, and you can still feel people’s reaction. The hairs on the backs of their necks stand up when they hear that wall of sound. It is lovely to be part of it.”

And the great news is that it is all going to get more exciting still, with the chorus’ 50th anniversary coming up in 2018: “We have got lots of exciting things planned. We are going to do a choral festival. There are loads of other plans in the pipeline.”

Before that, they will be performing on a new album to mark the 100th birthday of Dame Vera Lynn next March: “She is a remarkable lady!”

bfc was founded in 1968 and its debut performance was Belshazzar’s Feast with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by the composer William Walton. It has established and maintained a reputation as a choir working with top professional orchestras and artists, delivering high-quality performances. bfc is also known for its versatility as it performs not only the standard choral repertoire but also new works and commissions and collaborations with popular music artists.

bfc performs in the Brighton Festival every year and at major concert venues in London, the rest of Britain and in Europe. Its many recordings include award-winning versions of Belshazzar’s Feast and Tippett’s A Child of Our Time.

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There's recipes, suggestions for presents and everything from choosing your tree to recycling your packaging and paper.