Conductor: Adrian Lucas
Reviewer: Clare White
Raymond Gubbay’s Christmas season kicks off in spectacular style at the Symphony Hall in Birmingham with its annual classic carol concert. Traditional festive favourites mixed with rarer Yuletide treasures and sing-a-long standards are performed by the sublime City of Birmingham Choir, accompanied by the London Concert Orchestra and led by conductor Adrian Lucas.
One of the country’s leading choral conductors, Adrian Lucas has been at the helm of the City of Birmingham Choir since 2002. The enigmatic and jovial musical director is the driving force behind the joyful, warm and evocative atmosphere, which is just as well as on this occasion the temperature of the venue was a little on the chilly side.
From hauntingly beautiful classics such as Masters In This Hall and Ava Maria, to rousing renditions of O Come, All Ye Faithful and Good King Wenceslas sung by all, the eclectic programme of jubilant and moving compositions and carols results in a magical seasonal treat.
Special guest reader Tony Robinson gives passionate and expressive readings of A Visit from St Nicholas by Clement Clarke Moore and A Christmas Carol, which is particularly good. The award-winning actor and author is accompanied by the orchestra as he delivers Charles Dicken’s dynamic prose – his brilliant Tiny Tim portrayal showing just a hint of beloved Baldrick.
The festive cheer continues with Handel’s glorious Worthy Is The Lamb and Amen from Messiah and a stunning choral section featuring a Spanish Carol and The Lamb by Sir John Tavener. An enthusiastic audience joins in for O Little Town of Bethlehem and God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen and trumpet soloist Crispian Steele-Perkins accompanies the 39-piece orchestra for a stirring delivery of Handel’s Trumpet Suite in D Major.
A highlight of the evening is a spine-tingling performance of John Rutter’s arrangement of O Holy Night by tenor Nicky Spence. In a hall which acoustically lends itself so well to concerts such as this, the richness and depth of the orchestral and choral sound are stunning.
Proceedings are brought to a triumphant conclusion by Hark The Herald Angels and 12 Days of Christmas – enough to melt the heart of the most hardened Scrooge. A fabulously festive Christmas cracker.
Reviewed on 18 December 2017 | Image: Contributed