REVIEW: Brighton Festival Chorus singers serve sparkling aperitif

Brighton Festival Chorus, Christmas Concert, Brighton Dome, Sunday, December 17
Brighton Festival ChorusBrighton Festival Chorus
Brighton Festival Chorus

For those bored by Brexit the annual Christmas concert of the Brighton Festival Chorus had a surprise.

Mezzo-soprano Juliette Pochin, one of the organisers with husband and cheerful conductor James Morgan, sang a satirical ditty about the political hot potato, to the tune of John Lennon’s ‘Happy Christmas War Is Over’. Sample lines included: “Englands’s Over, As We Know It. Brexit’s Coming now” and “So This is Brexit. What Have We Done”.

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For good measure she threw later in a short encore piece about “Donald Trump is coming to Town”.

Whether or not anyone would consider such pieces appropriate for a spiritual Christmas concert is open to debate, but they were certainly loudly applauded by most of the Brighton Dome’s sell-out audience.

Off the political pedestal, the concert offered its usual brand of conviviality and more serious pieces.

Contrast the sheer exuberance of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s wonderful and witty clip-clop Sleigh Ride and the chirpy Bugler’s Holiday with the graver tones of bass Paul Reeves on Bethlehem Down and There is no Rose. For good measure we had a snowman playing bass for a while, until, as ever, the heat got to him.

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Miss Pochin, looking as elegant in black and then sparkling silver and singing to match, was at her finest on the gorgeous Maria Wiegenlied, gliding smoothly and strongly above the sweet strings.

For some local music lovers Christmas does not start until they hear the chorus beguile them with beautifully layered singing, and their performance of the Hallelujah chorus had great joy and energy. In this instance the conductor was a guest drawn from the audience, Alison Gill, and she seemed to have a ball at the podium.

The innocent voices of the Brighton Festival Youth Choir added another gentle dimension to the programme, especially the uplifting Tomorrow Shall be My Dancing Day, well balanced against the soft-shoe shuffle of the orchestra.

All in all it was a sparking aperitif for the main course of Christmas and New Year celebrations.

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