When does Christmas start for you? Is it the gift-buying, the card-writing, the gathering of family and friends or the exchange of presents?
Everyone has that special moment when you feel the festive period has begun….and for former politician Edwina Currie that time came in Chesterfield on Sunday night.
“I feel that Christmas has really started,” she told a packed audience. “It is a pleasure to see the Winding Wheel full and everyone having a good time.”
She was speaking in her role as president of Tideswell Male Voice Choir, which organised he annual Christmas Spectacular. Mrs Currie praised members of the choir, the pupils of South Darley CE Primary School and Sir Richard Arkwright’s Masson Mills Band for their contributions towards “a marvellous concert.”
Spectators turned out in their hundreds to support the fifth event of its kind, which this year raised just over £1,000 in donations for Ashgate Hospice.
Quoting a line from When A Child Is Born - which the men’s choir sang - Ashgate Hospice’s chaplain Paul Bettison said: “A ray of hope is what we seek to bring into people’s lives, patients, relatives and friends.”
He thanked the audience for their donations towards the £2.8m which the hospice needs to raise every year in voluntary contributions.
Singers and musicians, young and old, brought gifts of seasonal songs and music to the concert, in which the overriding atmosphere was one of joy.
The audience shared in the delight of newly married choir member Richard Lawson, a bachelor for 69 years and five months until he tied the knot on the day before the concert. His new bride, Eva, was back at the Winding Wheel to listen to her husband sing with the choir, having spent her first date with him doing exactly that earlier in the year.
Joy lit up the faces of the children in the South Darley school choir and parents beamed with pride as the pure sound of young voices filled the auditorium. Pupils dressed as Mary and Joseph, Rudolf, Father Christmas and a garage mechanic were complemented by others wearing Santa hats and reindeer outfits.
A heart-tugging solo of Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer was flawlessly performed by Ignacio Hersey in a piece which included Luke Crapper as Father Christmas and Ben Jordan as a mechanic.
Every song performed by the 40-strong children’s choir twinkled with magic and sparkle, a fitting tribute to teacher and musical director Louise Hopkins.
Another little star on the night was six-year-old Zoe Currie from Glossop, who enchanted the audience with her performance of Working In A Stable as she stood alongside her grandmother Edwina Currie.
It may have been many years since male voice choir member Thomas Eccles was a lad, but that didn’t stop him reverting to childhood for his solo, The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot. This was beautifully performed by Thomas, with his fellow choir members adding a touch of humour by dabbing their eyes with handkerchiefs.
Thomas wasn’t forgotten by Santa this time as a present arrived for him on the sleigh of goodies brought in for the school choir and young spectators.
The male voice choir treated the audience to a new addition its festive repertoire, Ring Out, Wild Bells, a song based on Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem calling for peace rather than war, truth rather than falsehoods. This was a beautiful arrangement in which the voices sounded like peals of bells.
Piano accompanist Christopher Ellis opened the choir’s second set with Christmas Medley, arranged by Liberace, which ranged from the gentle tinkling sound of Jingle Bells to a cathedral full of bells in Oh Come All Ye Faithful.
Spectators found themselves playing name that tune while they listened to the male voice choir’s song A Merry Little Christmas was interspersed with instrumental excerpts from Jingle Bells to Deck the Halls.
Bowing to a request from a spectator, this choir’s musical director, Dennis Kay, performed the moving song O Holy Night which drew a rousing reception from the audience.
Masson Mills Band got the party started in style with the opening number Joy, Peace and Happiness setting the tone for the rest of the evening. The band had put a lot of thought into presentation, opening up with a tambourine, sleigh bells and a drum heralding the arrival of various sections of the ensemble during the course of the piece
Musical director Mark Peacock introduced a selection of festive tunes including a big band version of Joy to the World, which got the audience clapping along, and the lively number Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree.
The band also reprised their award-winning performance of Festive Overture, by Shostakovich, which earned them first place against four other bands in a competition in Bolsover, no mean feat for a band which only rehearses once a month. This dramatic piece lived up to the promise of its musical director: “broad brass fanfare and big flourish with more notes than you can throw a stick at,.”
Of course, no Christmas concert would be complete without a good old sing-song and spectators enjoyed every minute of the Twelve Days Of Christmas, Hark the Herald Angels Sing and Silent Night.
Tideswell Male Voice Choir will be raising money for The Christie hospital, Manchester, at a Christmas Spectacular concert in the Palace Hotel, Buxton, on Sunday, December 16, at 7pm. Special guest will be 15-year-old Georgia Odette, who sang on the TV show Britain’s Got Talent. Tickets can be obtained from Maureen Edge on 01298 77947.