Actually Gay Men’s Chorus (AGMC) sang their hearts out at their traditional Christmas Carol Concert on Wednesday, December 23 at St Andrews Church in Hove.
The concert which was attended by the Mayor of Brighton & Hove, Cllr Lynda Hyde had something for everyone: tradition Christmas carols, Christmas songs and Christmas banter.
Ring Out The Bells was compered by Kara van-Park, the alter ego of Wain Douglas who played wicked witch to guest soprano’s Sophie Causbrooks’ radiant princess. His banter and links at times were edgy, but both singers have wonderful voices and their duets with the chorus produced some of the evenings highlights.
St Andrew’s is the spiritual home of the chorus and they really do sing and sound different when they appear on home territory. They are more relaxed and confident and this really makes a difference to the way they approach their singing.
Their ensemble singing all evening was first class, they listened to each other and the sound they produced was full and rounded, contained and controlled. They sound more like a traditional male voice choir than previously and are slowly developing the ability to produce an effective piano during their performances.
In particular they were on top form when they were accompanying their guest soprano, Sophie Causbrook.
Unknown To Man was the musical highlight of the entire evening with music from Finlandia by Sibelius given words and arranged by Jason Pimblett. The arrangement and performance were glorious. Sophie soared above the chorus and their sound wrapped round her voice but never swamped her. The balance between soloist and chorus was first class.
The first half of the program was full of traditional Christmas treasures including Little Drummer Boy, Mary’s Boy Child and When a Child is Born. All beautifully sung from arrangements by Jason Pimblett. Joubert’s arrangement of Torches, notoriously difficult to bring off, was particularly impressive and well articulated.
The second half featured Coady Green and Christopher Wayne Smith at the piano playing Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody piano duet. The audience love this couple and they did not fail to deliver a sparkling performance of this difficult percussive duet.
Brian Gannon was the only featured soloist from the chorus who had a complete number to himself. His rendition of Have yourself a merry little Christmas was magical. His phrasing was magnificent, he is so musical when he sings and it was as though I was hearing the song for the first time. The audience roared their approval.
Kara van-Park joined the chorus in Joy to the world and Happy New Year. Kara has a fine voice and it blended well. Her performance of Surabaya Santa at the end of the first half was a tour de force.
Sophie Causbrook took centre stage for Walking in the Air and Lloyd Webber’s The Perfect Year preparing the ground for everyone to sing Auld Lang Syne and an encore which featured a medley of highlights from the concert. It was all cleverly constructed to build up excitement and the audience lapped it up.
The Actually Chorus is singing much better than for some time. They have fewer singers on stage and the wall of sound they produced in the past has been stripped back to a smaller rounded sound.
Musical Direction with any chorus is crucial and Jason Pimbett’s stamp is everywhere, from his arrangements which are constructed to highlight the strong points of the chorus to his clear musical direction.
Coady Green the accompanist is a huge asset to the chorus and he was ably assisted by Colin Blanchflower on keyboards and Rosie Bergonzi on percussion.
All proceeds from the evening will go to Inclusion For All, the national anti-bullying charity.
Your next opportunity to hear AGMC perform is at the Dome Concert Hall on Sunday, January 10 when they will be appearing with the London Gay Symphony Orchestra who will be performing the Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saens, narrated by Miss Jason and Poulenc’s Concerto for two pianos and orchestra featuring Coady Green and Christopher Wayne Smith on pianos.