The joy of listening to live music is only surpassed by the joy of producing it. And in this Spirit of Christmas concert the wonderful Actually Gay Men’s Chorus have the broadest smiles on their faces – revealing their happiness to be singing in front of us a live audience in this most horrible of lockdown years.
Temporarily away from their home in Hove the group were at the acoustically amazing St Mary’s Church, Kemptown.
Samuel Cousins leads this chorus with enthusiasm and dedication and his programme choice was impeccable. Starting with a stunning falsetto solo from Ian Hollands, in Once In Royal David’s City, the choir seemed to grow into the vast space with some wonderful harmonies and great variety of light and shade.
They gave us 15 songs, plus 2 rousing encores that had the audience on their feet. The tender and haunting Bethlehem by Schoenberg suddenly erupts into a gloriously broad sound , followed surprisingly by Rex Admirabilis a short interlude from believe it or not the Sound of Music !
Pianist Simon Gray gave us a delightfully jazz rhythm cool version of Good King Wenceslas, and the chorus sang to the church’s echoing rafters in O Come All Ye Faithful which under other circumstances we would have been able to join in with.
The imitation chimes of the Ukrainian Bell Carol followed . Gscene photographer and chorus member Jack Lynn read his own poem debunking the commercial hoo-ha of the season and cutting to the central theme of love of family and friends.
The group’s regular O Holy Night was led by a magnificent solo from Cyrus Dean, who gave a spine-tingling performance .
It was a stirring, joyful, uplifting antidote almost as good as a vaccine .
The concert raised funds for Sussex Beacon and it’s hoped a filmed version will be online before Christmas – watch this space. And it’s not too late to give to the Beacon even if you didn’t get to hear this magic night’s music.
You can donate here: sussexbeacon.org.uk