The Halle Orchestra continued their sensational seasonal concerts this evening with a lady who has collaborated with this orchestra several times already, even producing an album with them earlier this year. A northern lass, who reminding me very much of the late, great, Victoria Wood (only with a superior singing voice), and whose jazzy, bluesy voice filled the Bridgewater Hall entertaining a near capacity audience this evening. I write of course of Clare Teal.
Also, sitting up in the choir stalls were The Halle Youth Training Choir, The PWC Choir, and representatives of several other corporate choirs who all raised their voices in the merrymaking too.
Each year, The Halle organise a Corporate Choir Competition, and the winners are given the privilege of performing with the orchestra during one of the Halle's Christmas Concerts. This year's winners were The PWC Choir, and they had their moment in the spotlight singing an a capella version of Good King Wenceslas, followed by I'll Be Home For Christmas with the orchestra accompanying. I assume that the other nine different uniforms on display, the representatives of other corporate choirs, were the runners up in the same competition.
The Halle Youth Training Choir aims to cater for that middle ground so to speak. They accept youths between the ages of 12 and 15 only, and whilst giving them essential vocal training, allow their voices during this transitional period of physical development to mature in an un-pressured and more relaxed environment. And in the second half of the concert they had their moment of glory too. They first sung a gentle and lilting version of O Holy Night, followed by Frosty The Snowman; both with orchestral accompaniment.
The quality of all the choir singing this evening was extremely good, and indeed enjoyable. All the more so for realising that for one choir it is purely a hobby and a way of escaping the daily grind for a while; whilst the other choir have youth and inexperience on their side.
The orchestra, magnificent as always, and quite rightly deserving their place in the world's top orchestras, played a few solo numbers this evening, conducted by Stephen Bell, the Halle's Associate Conductor for their season of Pop concerts (pop as in popular; ie; less highbrow!) Among these gems was the lovely Big Band style Swinging Christmas Overture by Paul Campbell (a Halle commission); The rather film music style of Nigel Hess' Christmas Overture; and my favourite of all of them, giving the orchestra's trumpet section a real workout Leroy Anderson's Bugler's Holiday.
The main attraction of this evening's concert, Clare Teal herself, was in fine voice and merry mood, despite being dressed rather like a 16th century pirate in the first half. She sang 10 songs in total this evening, one of which was a repeat from her last concert with this orchestra and had nothing to do with Christmas at all, and even less to do with a grapefruit! However, those songs which appealed more were the ones which best suited Teal's voice; the more upbeat and faster swing numbers. These were Let It Snow, The Man With The Bag, and with a little help from The Halle Youth Training Choir, All I Want For Christmas Is You.
A fine concert and one that certainly put one in the Christmas spirit, and so edifying to see and hear such a 'giant' of the singing world raising her voice alongside corporate and youth training choirs. The one thing it really wasn't though was very 'winter wonderlandish!" Some but not all of the orchestra were wearing silly festive hats, with some but not all music stands bedecked with tinsel, and no attempt at all by the Bridgewater Hall to decorate the stage in any way that might suggest a winter wonderland - even some cotton wool 'snow' covering the edge of the stage might have worked. That was a shame - some winter-time decoration would have put the icing on the cake.
Reviewer: Mark Dee
Reviewed: 16th December 2016
North West End Rating: ★★★★