Review by William Marshall
With singing as immaculate as their suits and their stage presentation, Colne Valley Male Voice Choir were at the heart of a traditional brass and voices Christmas concert that was deeply satisfying for the full house.
There was music here that male voice choirs have been singing for generations, such as O Holy Night, The Star of Bethlehem and The Holy City, which have the power to take the listener on a journey back to gaslit chapels and Victorian parlours, but there was more up-to-date and rhythmically challenging material too.
For example, the singers – who performed from memory throughout – were impressive when they handled the fair complexities of A Merry Little Christmas, one of the seasonal mash-ups that composer Goff Richards was so expert at.
There was smoothly nostalgic singing on the Mel Torme standard The Christmas Song and I particularly admired the men’s tone and control on Michael Head’s beautiful The Little Road to Bethlehem. Here, the fruitful coaching of director and conductor Thom Meredith was at its most evident.
The guest band was the renowned Brighouse and Rastrick, under the baton of Leigh Baker, who also contributed a fair few of the arrangements. The most stirring was King of Kings, Miklos Rozsa’s theme from the Hollywood epic of that name. This was an unusual but inspired choice for a brass band arrangement, because it resulted in an appropriately epic sound, with the band gloriously concluding at full throttle.
There was an attractive set from the Colne Valley Boys, directed by Thom Meredith. They were lithe and loose on the Charles Trenet Song Beyond the Sea (accompanied by really swinging piano from Chris Pulleyn) and for a highly appealing account of Walking in the Air, choir member Benedict Stubbs stepped forward to execute a very nice violin obbligato.
The guest singer was soprano Victoria Sharp, excellent on her very enterprising and unusual choice of Come Sing and Dance by Herbert Howells. She also joined forces with Thom Meredith for a duet from Phantom of the Opera, which entertainingly interrupted the otherwise almost exclusively Christmassy theme of a concert that was compered by Simon Lindley and featured the piano playing of Keith Swallow.