Sunday, January 1st, 2017

Radio City Cash for Kids Christmas Concert 2016 Highlights & Review

The eighth annual Radio City Cash for Kids Christmas Concert at the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral was another fantastic success.

Birkenhead High School Academy opened the event with a tear-jerking performance of ‘Silent Night’ from the senior choir followed by an uplifting and fun performance of ‘Once Upon A Christmas Song’ by Geraldine McQueen (Peter Kay!) from 2008’s spoof talent show ‘Britain’s Got The Pop Factor And Possibly A New Celebrity Jesus Christ Soapstar Superstar Strictly On Ice’! Both choirs followed this up with a moving performance of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’, sung in tribute to the legendary artist who died recently. Along with Ben Mark Turner at the piano and Rob Chalmers and Casey Taylor on guitars, Charmed String Quartet accompanied Silent Night and Hallelujah, which added further poignancy to the performance.

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Following the congregational carol, ‘Hark The Herald Angels’ Sing’, expertly led by soprano Joanne Dennis, Bebington Bittermen took to the stage. Directed by James Sills, this male voice choir go from strength to strength; inspired by the Spooky Men’s Chorale, they have really honed their style and technique and they were really impressive. In ‘Blue Christmas’, they displayed their comic side as well as showcasing the beauty of male voice choral singing. David Hayward’s solo was a real highlight.


Next up were Sunlight Unplugged, directed by Sense of Sound’s Jennifer John. They began their performance with ‘Flame’, an original piece by Susie Prater. The choir comprise around 40 people who work at Unilever Research and Development in Port Sunlight, yet they carried this piece off so professionally, with real dynamic variation and blend. They followed on with the Christmas classic, ‘Mary’s Boy Child’, showcasing their adeptness at a cappella singing and handling the huge range with ease.


Following another congregational carol, Platonix, an all-girls choir from Wirral Grammar School for Girls, took to the stage. Expertly led by Joanne Dennis, this choir blew the audience away with their beautiful versions of ‘Carol Of The Bells’ and ‘O Holy Night’. They achieved a perfectly blended, crisp and clear choral sound that suited the cathedral’s setting and acoustics so beautifully. It reminded me of the most poignant moments in ‘Home Alone’, where both these songs appear.


Jennifer John closed the first half with a haunting performance of Joni Mitchell’s ‘River’ in collaboration with Charmed String Quartet. Jennifer delivers such command in her performances and this, coupled with her fantastic, rich voice put the audience in the palm of her hand. ‘River’ is not a standard uplifting Christmas classic and Jennifer was able to get to the core of the lyrics of this song with her depth of performance.


Following the intermission, Egremont Primary School’s ‘Crazy Quavers’ choir took to the stage. Backed by the string quartet, they gave a rousing performance of ‘Sparkle And Shine’ from the popular Christmas film, ‘Nativity!’ complete with choreographed dance routine! The boys and girls in this choir put such energy and charisma into their performance and the audience loved their infectious, bounding enthusiasm. They went on to perform a jazz-infused version of ‘Winter Wonderland’ with the same commitment and stage presence that they showed in their first piece.

egremont-1 egremont-2

Creative Community Choir have performed at the last six concerts and they have grown and developed into a huge 80-strong choir; despite being the biggest choir at the event, they sing as one with a real sense of togetherness. Directed by choral specialist James Sills, they started their performance with a version of Elbow’s ‘One Day Like This’. This piece featured a group of male singers from the choir leading the piece, which worked beautifully; the choir collaborated with Charmed String Quartet on this piece. Creative followed this up with an a cappella performance of the traditional Christmas hymn, ‘Deck The Hall’. This contrasted nicely with their first piece and showed the choir’s talent really well.


Following another congregational carol, Kaboodle Community Choir took to the stage to perform ‘Three Jazz Carols’. Directed by Chris Watson and Jeanette Boyhan, this choir have really developed their sound over the last few years. They took part in a mass performance with five other choirs at Liverpool Pride at St George’s Hall last summer under the direction of Jennifer John and they are also due to embark on a foreign tour in 2017. At the cathedral, they performed with zeal and musicality, showing off their ability to take on complex repertoire.


The boys’ choir from St Anselm’s College were next up, performing a fully committed and harmonised version of Band Aid’s ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’. This was the group’s second year performing at the event after forming in September 2015. The choir was almost double in size this year and consists of a mix of ages from 11 to 16 and the older boys work really well with the younger ones, helping to build their skills and confidence as singers. We are really pleased that we have an emerging group of male singers coming through at the school and we were incredibly proud of their performance at the cathedral.


Kaboodle & Anselm’s then went on to collaborate together with a rendition of Jona Lewie’s ‘Stop The Cavalry’, complete with brass and wind backing by musicians from St Anselm’s and Birkenhead High School Academy. This is the first time that we have featured brass and wind players at the concert and it proved to be a real highlight. Finlay Murphy from St Anselm’s also produced a memorable moment with his solo performance at the beginning of the piece, followed by a contrasting and successful solo from Phil Evans of Kaboodle Community Choir.

The Luminelles were the final choir to take to the stage, following another congregational carol – O Come All Ye Faithful – with a descant from Joanne Dennis that brought the house down! The Luminelles collaborated with Charmed String Quartet throughout their three pieces as they were in the midst of working with the quartet in preparation for a full collaborative concert the following week. At the cathedral, they were also accompanied by Chris Watson on piano and they performed the soulful Donny Hathaway classic ‘This Christmas’, complete with soaring string riffs and Rob Chalmers’ guitar solo. Jess Hynes then took a starring role, soloing beautifully on ‘Silver Bells’ backed by the choir. Tim Lennon then carried off the lead on John Lennon’s ‘Real Love’ with aplomb, accompanied by the Luminelles and the string quartet.


The Mono LPs then performed ‘Christmas Time’,  their own original Christmas Song, while the choirs all got into position for the finale. The Mono LPs were represented by Ste on lead vocals and piano and Vicky on cello and backing vocals. Accompanied by Charmed String Quartet, the Mono LPs filled the cathedral with their open-hearted performance and charismatic cello melodies and soaring vocals.


The finale is always the highlight of these concerts for me; seeing all the singers from all the choirs come together and sing as one is an awesome sight and sound and it is such a privilege to be able to conduct. This year, I chose to arrange the Bing Crosby and David Bowie classic, ‘Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth’ as the opportunity to pay tribute to Bowie following his passing earlier in the year was too important to not acknowledge. The message behind ‘Peace On Earth’ also felt really relevant. We followed up with our traditional performance of ‘Walking In The Air’, which concluded with a standing ovation from the sell-out audience.


Thank yous…

Thanks to Si Greening for his skill and professional approach in hosting the event; thank you to guitarists Rob Chalmers and Casey Taylor for accompanying many of the choirs; thanks to Lucy Rafferty at the cathedral for meticulous planning and organisation; thank you to Dave Corns for excellent skills and multitasking at the sound-desk; thank you to Dan Bishop for his brilliance on the organ; thanks very much to Joanne Dennis for leading the carols so well including singing some awesome descants; thanks to Ben Turner, Pat Lammin and Chris Watson for accompanying so sympathetically and musically on the piano; thanks to James Sills and Chris Watson for conducting the congregational carols and to James for conducting the finale pieces with me; thanks very much to Dionne McHugh and Molly Daniel for excellent stage management – you prevented chaos throughout; thank you to Charmed String Quartet for collaborating with many of the choirs and adding something really extra special; thank you to Jennifer John and the Mono LPs for your lovely guest spots; thank you to all the musical directors who brought their choirs, you were all brilliant. Finally, thank you to all the singers in the choirs – without you, the event would not exist and you are who make it such a successful, beautiful and moving event.


Programme below –


Hosted by Si Greening from Radio City 96.7
Welcome by Canon Paul Rattigan, Liverpool Cathedral 

Birkenhead High School Academy Choir            / Musical Directors: Jeanette Boyhan, Amy Chalmers, Vanessa Singh & Matt Lammin                                                                            

 Junior School:                                                Once Upon A Christmas Song
Senior School & The Luminelles:             Silent Night
Senior & Junior Choir:                                 Hallelujah   (Solo: Imogen Carew)

Congregational Carol
Led by Joanne Dennis

Speaker:            Carole Clare, from Radio City Cash For Kids

Bebington Bitter Men     /     Musical Director: James Sills

Sans Day Carol
Blue Christmas       (Solo: David Hayward)

Sunlight Unplugged       /   Musical Directors: Jennifer John

Mary’s Boy Child

Congregational Carol (1st verse – Solo by Joanne Dennis)

Platonix       /  Musical Director: Joanne Dennis

Carol Of The Bells
O Holy Night

Jennifer John



Egremont Primary Choir               /       Musical Directors: Victoria Burr & Beth Street

Sparkle & Shine
Winter Wonderland

Creative Community Choir            / Musical Director: James Sills

One Day Like This
Deck The Hall

Congregational Carol – Please stand
Led by Joanne Dennis

Kaboodle Community Choir /   Musical Directors: Chris Watson & Jeanette Boyhan

Three Jazz Carols

St Anselm’s Pop Choir   /   Musical Directors: Chris Watson & Matt Lammin

Do They Know It’s Christmas

Kaboodle & St Anselm’s Pop Choir

Stop The Cavalry
Solos: Finlay Murphy (St Anselm’s) & Phil Evans (Kaboodle)

Congregational Carol
Led by Joanne Dennis

The Luminelles & Friends    /     Directed by Matt Lammin

This Christmas
Silver Bells (Solo: Jess Hynes)
Real Love (Solo: Tim Lennon)

 (While the choirs move into finale positions):
The Mono LPs

Christmas Time

Finale (All Choirs & Charmed String Quartet)

Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth

Walking In The Air

Musicians: Dan Bishop ( Organ, Rob Chalmers & Casey Taylor: Guitar, Chris Watson, Ben Mark Turner & Pat Lammin: Piano

Charmed String Quartet: Kate O’Brien – Violin, Amy Chalmers – Violin, Helen Measures – Viola & Vicky Mutch – Cello

Musical Director: Matt Lammin (

Stage Managers: Dionne McHugh, Molly Daniel & Pat Lammin

Sound Technician: Dave Corns            Cathedral event management: Lucy Rafferty & Eryl Parry

Radio City Cash For Kids: Carole Clare & Katie Harrison

 Further information about the tonight’s musical groups:

 Bebington Bitter Men (, Tweet @jsillsmusic)

 Birkenhead High School Academy Choirs (, Tweet @BHSA_music)

 Charmed String Quartet (, Tweet @AmyVChalmers)

 Creative Community Choir (

 Egremont Primary Choir (, Tweet @EgremontPrimary)

 Jennifer John (, Tweet @JenniferJohnUK)

 Joanne Sarah Dennis (, Tweet @jdsing33)

 Kaboodle Community Choir (contact if interested in joining this Birkenhead-based choir)

 The Luminelles (Information via

 The Mono LPs (, Tweet @themonolps)

 Platonix (, Tweet @WGSGmusic)

 St Anselm’s Pop Choir (, Tweet @anselmscollege)

 Sunlight Unplugged – Unilever R&D Choir (, Tweet @SunlightUnplugd)


 Simon Greening (, Tweet @simongreening)

Please support the following:

 Radio City Cash For Kids (, Tweet @cfkradiocity)

Liverpool Cathedral (, Tweet @LivCathedral)