As a welcome back concert goes Actually Gay Men’s Chorus roared back triumphantly with their aptly named event This Is The Hour. At their temporary base of St Mary’s Kemptown, Samuel Cousins their spirited MD put together a blend of old and new and it was hard to believe that most of their time together in the last year has been on Zoom.
We got 19 incredibly varied pieces plus encores , and they gave us show tunes, sacred music and a bit of Queen to raise our spirits. Compered amicably and wittily by Gerry McCrudden, with musical accompaniment by Simon Gray, Maria Dunn and Gareth Thompson, the show used the St Mary’s acoustic to its best effect.
Samuel really does know how to get the best out of this group and there’s a real palpable connection in his energetic and sympathetic conducting style.
They kicked off with the funny, slightly sarcastic, Hello from Book Of Mormon, then on to a song new to me -Billy Brown , whose married family life is turned upside down when he falls in love with another man. Soloists Chris Tippett and Patrick Bullock gave an emotional mash-up of Kander and Ebb’s I Don’t Remember You and Sometimes A Day Goes By , and Ian Hollands gave an impassioned version of What I Did For Love.
We were told to listen to familiar lyrics anew and see if there were different resonances, and that certainly was true of Bring Him Home and Andrew Whitlaw’s strong Impossible Dream. Till I Hear You Sing from LLoyd Webber’s Love Never Dies was another lockdown reference and the chorus left us wanting more with the strident This Is The Hour from Miss Saigon – here not in its scary military context but with life-affirming positivity.
Patrick Bullock kicked off Part 2 with 3 other soloists in a highly camp rendition of Sondheim’s Broadway Baby, and Philip Davies and chorus gave us their butch best go at Luck Be A Lady. Away from musical theatre the choir showed their glorious harmonising in the popular Pie Jesu and Benedictus . Tom Slater-Hyndman just soared up to the top notes with ease.
A scary Kiss Of The Spider Woman and a haunting Skyfall led to a Queen medley of Somebody To Love, with soloist Nick Paget at his Freddie best, and a grand choral Bohemian Rhapsody. Finally we got Never Enough – and with this group that’s certainly true.
Some of their proceeds go to the Sussex Beacon. Look out for my interview feature with Samuel in the September issue of Scene.
For more info, to donate or join see the AGMC website here: