REVIEW: Actually With Bells On

Brian Butler December 24, 2021

Actually Gay Men’s Chorus used the theme of bells for their farewell to 2021 concert in Kemptown. Under the inspiring direction of Samuel Cousins, the choir were at their usual high standard, with old favourites and new offerings at St Mary’s Church, with accompaniment by Simon Gray, Maria Dunn and Gareth Thompson.

Singing out of sight, they opened with the hauntingly beautiful but also powerful Do You Hear What I Hear? Samuel’s own arrangement of the favourite Let It Snow was suitably jolly, with a little taste of Jingle Bells to lead into the marvellously sonorous Ukrainian Bell Carol. The Bleak Midwinter featured Ian Hollands and Chris Cage: it was clear and touching, with great harmonies from the ensemble.

Photo by Nick Ford Photography

The Christmas pops classic Stop The Cavalry followed with a suitable militaristic accompaniment. The audience was brought in to sing -albeit in masks – for O Come All Ye Faithful, and there was a highly unusual bouncy almost country and western version of The Holly And The Ivy, which I gather was written for children. It was terribly infectious ( oops not the right word right now !) Samuel stepped in to sing a solo in The Spirit Of Christmas- we need to hear more of his marvellous voice in future

One of my favourites from my choir days Torches opened Part 2 and there was much else to enjoy, including a mash-up of Little Drummer Boy and Peace On Earth. Jack Lynn sang a spirited and totally excellent Ave Maria, and there was a fabulous duet of Christmas Lights by Nick Paget and Chidi Ogbonnaya.

Photo by Nick Ford Photography

Holding to the theme, Chris Cage read Tennyson’s poem Ring Out Wild Bells – with many modern resonances- not least its reference to ringing out “party strife”, and “the old shapes of foul disease”. The audience was recruited again to sing the hilariously quick Twelve Days Of Christmas, and Ring Out The Bells sent us out with a spring in our step.

Let’s hope that all forms of live entertainment, but especially our local choirs, give us more entertainment in 2022.