What a joy to be treated to an evening simply packed with traditional festive merriment, well I say traditional but there were some fascinatingly untraditional arrangements in there that put a broad smile on my face.
Of late, LGBTQ+ community chorus Actually Gay Men’s Chorus (AGMC) has been doing a lot of that, they have raised the bar not only for themselves but for others too. Together With Christmas at St Mary’s Church in Kemptown started with O Holy Night which for personal reasons always makes me cry, so within moments the handkerchief was in play, and would you believe it they ended with a further rousing chorus of the same so as the lights came up those around me could spot me mopping away the tears. To be fair the AGMC version is infinitely better than that of my father and aunty Nelly, but the effect is the same.
It is exactly that sound created in this rousing carol that marks this choir so high, they simply have a full and powerful sound that speaks conviction and proves practice. It has, when at full belt, the power and resonance of say a Welsh male voice choir. And they put it to very good use. But there is also lightness of touch too and humour, they move easily from moving to mirth with practised elegance.
AGMC also includes some very fine solos and soloists but what marks them apart and often above are their arrangements and many of these are down to chorus master Samuel Cousins and accompanist Simon Gray. I was particularly captivated by one arrangement this time around that had that 1950s American musical theatre vibe to it and would not have felt out of place in a show like Seven Brides For Seven Brothers!
The balance of traditional festive fare to pop was well judged too with the pop element being on the whole restricted to medleys, always fun but never as impressive as a familiar carol or a number like Little Drummer Boy or Do You Hear What I Hear where the choir nail some fine and complex arrangements.
The soloists chosen also reflect a commitment to inclusivity, they are all good in their own way and some soaringly so. Andrew Whitelaw surely had a West End career in a previous life, and whilst not all reaching his confident delivery they all have quality and commitment and all are moving.
The addition of Maria Dunn on keyboard and Darrell Morris on percussion to Simon Gray’s piano adds further fullness to the sound and in Samuel Cousins’ hands this choir is proving to be the one to watch.