Christmas concert: REVIEW: Resound and Rebelles

Brian Butler December 9, 2019

Stefan Holmstrom, musical director for both the Resound and Rebelles choirs , challenges his singers and audiences with new, exciting and unusual offerings at every concert and their Christmas offering is no exception.

Moving from their home base in Hove to St George’s Church, Kemptown – being “ on tour “ as he called it, they range from traditional festive items to exotic gifts from Sweden, Hindustan, the land of the Zulus and Hawaii in an eclectic  mix they’ve subtitled “ Sugar and Spice “.

Opening and closing with the delightfully light Christmas Waltz by master songwriters Cahn and Styne, they soon take us into the unknown with a jolly Swedish number, arranged and sung by Holmstrom himself and echoed by the choir. It’s gleeful and sung with gusto leading to a deeply rich and harmonious Ave Generosa , by Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo, bringing out the amazing depth of sound these singers possess.

The female chorus the Rebelles followed this with a short sharp tuneful Elins  Trall, and Jul Jul , a further Scandinavian offering full of sweet, high, clear notes.

More from Norway follows with The Rose , a haunting melody again by Gjeilo. But then comedy sets in and a parody of Roy Orbison’s Blue Bayou , transposes us to a windy street where 4 follicly-challenged men lament the loss of their wigs in Blew By You – declaring there’s “ no peace of mind without that piece of mine “

The  sonorous Limu Limu Lima has long sustained notes which seem to melt into each other – a truly delightful new discovery for me as was the very modern Ave  Maria of Frank Beibl. The traditional Lully Lully Lullay was topped at the end of the first half by the amusing Rum and Coca Cola , with new lyrics about Brighton pier, fish and chips and the dreaded seagulls.

Part 2 starts with the male choir high up behind us on the church’s balcony with the haunting Pure Imagination of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fame.

And imagination is what Stefan always brings to his wonderfully varied offerings – from the girl’s lament about Clark Kent aka Superman, to the Zulu Mangisondele Nicosi Yam – a rich Christmas pudding of sounds, complete with dance sways and drum accompaniment. It was the highlight of the evening.

Not pausing in their global tour, we then get John Denver’s country and western classic Take Me Home, and soon after we are in Hawaii with Mele Kalikimaka. The strangest offering of the night was a Hindustani number Ramkali, full of odd vowels, rhythmic sounds made somewhere in the mouth and a pulsating repetition which becomes hypnotic. How adventurous can this group be ? 

If you miss their Christmas concert, repeated on 7 December, you can catch them next at St Nicholas Church on 10 December or put 8 and 9 May in your diary for their appearance at Brighton Fringe .