REVIEW: Christmas gets under way with Chichester's festive concerts

The Band of Her Majestys Royal Marines
The Band of Her Majestys Royal Marines

Christmas Concerts, Chichester Festival Theatre - with The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Portsmouth and Chichester Cathedral Choir, until Saturday, December 7.

Nothing says Christmas quite like the Christmas concerts at Chichester Festival Theatre – and this year certainly delivers … even if the lingering feeling by the end is that it’s probably time for the night’s whole format to be revisited.

On the first night of the run, almost inevitably things didn’t truly come alive until the second half when the highlight was a superb section from the Marines in big-band mode, especially a cracking Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas from supercool vocalist George.

The man should have had a couple of songs – plus another couple in the first half. Lovely too was the Wexford Carol in the first half from fellow marine vocalist Samantha McIndoe.

Elsewhere, under the lively direction of Captain Andy Gregory, the band displayed the full range of their artistry and majesty, alternating in the first half with the cathedral choir and in the second with Close Company, the men of the cathedral choir.

And completely splendid they were too.

Under Chichester Cathedral organist and master of the choristers Charles Harrison, the cathedral choir continues to soar, their singing exquisite and their control impressive.

Close Company offer slightly different pleasures, never failing to delight as they mix their fine musicianship with oodles of wit.

And yet…

At the risk of sounding like a broken record and saying exactly the same thing every year, it’s difficult not to feel nostalgic for the Christmas concerts of days gone by – days of celebrity hosts and Christmas readings and above all days when a huge school choir filled the stage at least twice a night.

The current concerts, without quite yet feeling samey, are certainly starting to feel a little unambitious. Tonight was fun and enjoyable; a few years ago, however, it all felt much more spectacular.

We have reached the point where something else is needed.

A proper printed programme would be a start. Part of the fun of attending a concert is seeing what’s coming up; part of the fun is also having a record of it afterwards

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