Christmas may come at the same time each year, but it’s the triggers heralding its arrival that are different.
This year it was the eager faces of nearly 60 children watching and listening to a little girl singing Silent Night as she led a procession of four classmates down the aisle.
The candle-carrying troupe was in exalted company as it made its way to the stage at Chesterfield’s Winding Wheel. To the left was Labour peer Roy Hattersley, president of Sir Richard Arkwright’s Masson Mills Band, and to the right, former Conservative MP Edwina Currie, the new president of Tideswell Male Voice Choir.
Parents beamed with pride as the pupils from South Darley C of Primary School, resplendent in festive red, and the youngsters from Dunston Primary and Nursery School, wearing maroon, gave their interpretation of Christmas.
Children dressed as Mary, Joseph, an angel and a donkey added the aah-factor fo Little Road to Bethlehem and The Animals in the Stable song was illustrated with handmade masks of mice, chicken and sheep.
Antler head-dresses were the cue for the most popular and enchanting offering from the youngsters, the action song Reindeer Rap. This song, in particular, reflected the huge amount of work which guiding light Louise Hopkins had put into getting these young singers ready for their big night.
And what a night it was. The Christmas Spectacular attracted 600 people whose donations of cash and cheques raised £1,107 on top of ticket sales. Proceeds from the event wlll go to the Teenage Cancer Unit at Sheffield’s Weston Park Hospital.
This concert is becoming a regular fixture on the calendar of its organiser Tideswell Male Voice Choir, whose members have amassed £20,000 for good causes such as Ashgate Hospice, Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice, Blyth Park Hospice and Weston Park Hospital.
The event puts the fun into fundraising as well as coming up with surprises every year, just as Christmas should.
This year’s surprise was a performance by pop outfit Tilly, all former students of Lady Manners School in Bakewell. Fronted by a confident and skilful singer/songwriter called Tllly, the trio features her brother Danny Hopkins on drums and Tom Barker on piano.
In keeping with the theme of the concert, Tilly performed their arrangements of two festive pieces, the carol Away In A Manger, and Slade’s chart-topping hit Merry Christmas Everybody, with spectators taking up the vocalist’s invitation to contribute their voices to the latter.
The surprises didn’t end there. The 64th birthday of Dennis Kay, the choir’s director of music, was marked with a spontaneous singalong in which the audience was conducted by Edwina Currie. Later, Dennis sprung the same surprise on spectator Andrea Darling after being tipped off by her husband that she was also celebrating a special day.
Players in Sir Richard Arkwright’s Masson Mills Band were in festive mood as they played instruments trimmed up with tinsel. The fun factor kicked in during a performance of Tyrolean Tubas when the four musicians playing the piece were bombarded with a volley of rolled up paper by members of the band.
Conductor Mareika Gray led the accomplished musicians in a dazzling array of pieces, which included the lively Mr Lear’s Carnival in which every member had the chance to play, the popular Florentiner March which featured in the film Brassed Off , The Christmas Song, which had been covered by stars including Bob Dylan, Herb Alpert and The Partridge Family and the majestic finale, The Kingdom Triumphant, which was so powerful that it could have lifted the roof of the Winding Wheel.
The biggest test for Mareika, deputising for her husband Russell who was in France, was standing on a podium in front of the audience to conduct both choir and band in a lovely performance of a medley of Christmas songs and tunes including Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, Let It Snow and Jingle Bells.
Earlier in the concert, Tideswell Male Voice Choir opened their score sheet with a beautiful performance of You Raise Me Up, led by five young men recruited under musical director and principal conductor Dennis Kay’s Come and Sing initiative.
Festive offerings from the choir included awesome interpretations of When A Child Is Born, Mary’s Boy Child, and Away In A Manger, where the phrasing and pitch added atmosphere to the beautiful songs.
The choir also performed two uplifting Christmas pieces, Glorious Kingdom and Joy To The World.
Conductor Dennis Kay also performed a moving and exquisite solo, O Holy Night, in which he was sensitively accompanied by pianist Christopher Ellis.
No Christmas would be complete without a visit from Santa who came with a sack full of selection boxes for the children who had performed in this magical concert.