Mass Sussex Christmas choir will join together online

For a Christmas when so much will be different, Brighton Festival Chorus are promising to offer something which links us with all the reassurance of tradition – their popular Christmas concert.

James Morgan
James Morgan

It’s just that this year it will be streamed straight to your home – and you too can actually take part in it.

Adults can download a backing track for O Come All Ye Faithful from the chorus’ website; children can download a backing track for Winter Wonderland. All you then have to do is film yourself singing it, submit the video and become part of the chorus’s mass participation Sussex Sings Christmas.

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The pre-recorded concert which features Brighton Festival Chorus, accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, will be streamed – complete with all your performances – on December 23 at 6pm.

Conductor James Morgan, who lives in Haywards Heath, is promising a traditional festival programme to lift spirits and encourage hope for a better New Year.

Inevitably, it’s been a tough year for the chorus: “The chorus was rehearsing online pretty much throughout the first lockdown and then as soon as we were allowed, we rehearsed in a field during the summer, just some outdoor space. Singing online was just nowhere near as good. It’s the fact that you can’t hear anybody else, just your own voice – and maybe your neighbours and relatives complaining! And then just before this second lockdown, we were rehearsing in a church with the doors open, and it went really well. The chorus had lots of protocols. Nobody was allowed anywhere near each other, and they all wore vizors. It was not the same but was certainly better than nothing.

“But it hasn’t been easy. For members singing in the chorus is a huge part of their lives. They have to take time off from work for performances. We had performances at the Royal Albert Hall lined up and we couldn’t do the Brighton Festival which was cancelled, which was a huge blow. But the chorus has been very keen to keep going somehow.”

And then the second lockdown came: “We were in the middle of planning our Christmas concert. We had to change our plans. We are now going to be bringing Christmas directly into people’s homes.”

There will no live audience. The elements of the concert will be pre-recorded and put together to be streamed.

“People will be able to settle down with a glass of mulled wine and listen just as if they had been going to our live concert. We felt it would be too risky to have a live audience. Now we have gone into lockdown again, we felt that it would be more sensible to discount a live audience. We will be in the Dome, but we will be pre-recording everything. We will be singing a traditional Christmas programme. We will be singing about this ‘most wonderful time of the year’ with maybe a little irony. We will be looking forward to the New Year. Since we have had a little bit of good news about the vaccine, perhaps next year is going to be better.

“We have been doing a Christmas concert for 17 years now. It has been very much part of the community’s Christmas. People come to it regularly from year to year. They usually see it as the start of their Christmas, and we were desperate not to let that tradition go. We wanted to do something and give people something to look forward to. Christmas is going to be different, but we wanted some things to survive.”

Full details of how to take part in the Brighton Festival Chorus’ Christmas concert through its virtual choirs initiative are available on https://bfc.org.uk/: “You get the backing tracks from our website. There are instructions on there and you get the lyrics, and you just do it. We want everyone young and old, whether you are a brilliant singer or a terrible singer. It is all about joining in.” Deadline is December 4.