Friday, December 20th, 2013

Radio City Cash for Kids Christmas Concert Review

(Photo courtesy of Dan Bishop)

The Fifth Annual Radio City Cash for Kids Christmas Concert was a great success thanks to the energy, passion and talent displayed by all of the choirs and performers. The concert was hosted by Radio City’s fabulous Simon Greening, who did a grand job throughout the proceedings.

Following a friendly welcome to the Cathedral from Canon Paul Rattigan, the Sense of Sound Singers with the Liverpool String Quartet and Dan Bishop on organ led the first congregational carol before The Liverpool Signing Choir took to the stage. With Georgina Fleming singing ‘O Holy Night’ beautifully, the signing choir created a stunning visual spectacle, accompanied by Dan Bishop on organ. The Signing Choir had appeared alongside the Birkenhead High School Academy Choir on The Blue Peter Christmas Special on CBBC an hour before the start of the concert so it was quite an eventful night for them! The choir was an integral part of the night, signing all the congregational carols.

We were pleased to have the Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Gary Millar, in attendance and he stepped up to offer his support for the event and to the charity before Kaboodle Community Choir took to the stage. They started with a haunting version of the traditional carol, ‘The Coventry Carol’ led by Chris Watson, before taking on the lush harmonies of Warlock’s ‘Lullaby My Jesus’, led by Jeanette Boyhan. Both pieces were a cappella and has real attention to detail; the second piece had complex harmonies which the choir carried off expertly.

Indigo Vibe immediately followed on, performing at the concert for the second year running. They debuted last year and this time around showed that they had really grown and developed as a choir. They sang ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’ and ‘River’ by Joni Mitchell with real energy and passion. Both songs were a cappella and lead by Kaya Herstad Carney. Kaya had performed ‘River’ at the concert last year with a smaller ensemble and it was pleasing to hear the arrangement developed to suit the full choir. 

‘Hark The Herald Angels Sing’ followed as a congregational carol, again led by Dan Bishop, The Liverpool String Quartet and Sense of Sound Singers. This carol was really well sung due to the fact that Birkenhead High School Academy and the Liverpool Signing Choir had both rehearsed and performed it earlier in the week on The Blue Peter Christmas Special.

The Creative Community Choir performed next on the main stage, appearing for the fourth year running. Led by James Sills, who has been involved in the Radio City Christmas concerts at the Anglican since the very beginning, they performed the traditional song, ‘Down In ‘The River To Pray’ and the sacred Christmas carol, ‘Gaudete’. This 65-strong choir gave a very committed and musical performance of these two moving pieces and included a delightful solo from Annabelle Lee.

The first junior choir of the evening, Wirral Grammar School For Boys’ Year 7 Choir took to the stage, singing John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’. Directed by Amy Chalmers, this was the school’s debut at the annual concert and it was fantastic to have an all-boys’ choir at the event. The Liverpool String Quartet accompanied.

The next act due to play was The Valentine Brothers. Unfortunately, due to the fact that Reuben was ill in bed, they could not sing as a trio. Happily, Joel Valentine was a real trooper and agreed to perform on his own. He went on to perform a moving laid-back version of ‘Do You Hear What I Hear?’ accompanied by The Liverpool String Quartet, Rob Chalmers and Izzy Owen on guitars and myself on piano and backing vocals, before moving on to perform a barnstorming version of ‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’, backed superbly by Wirral Grammar School for Boys.

Higher Bebington Junior School opened the second half with a gorgeous version of ‘Silent Night’; Laura Robinson sang the first verse on her own and this was a very moving way to start the second half. The choir then stepped the concert up a notch with a hugely energetic and infectious version of Katy Perry’s ‘Roar’. The choir, led by Miss Hinton, Mrs Tinkler and Mrs Lammin, are a highlight every year and with well-choreographed movement throughout along with enthusiastic singing, this year did not disappoint. Special mention to Mrs Tinkler who everyone could see inspired the children with her own fire and passion. Also, the choir has appeared at the event since its inauguration and my mum has been a huge part of their success throughout. She retired from the school this week and they are going to really miss her. The day before the cathedral, the whole school took part in a surprise assembly for her where each year group took it in turns to perform a snippet of a song that the choir has performed at the cathedral over the years. It was lovely. Higher Bebington Junior School Choir rounded off their performance at the cathedral this year with ‘Jingle Bell Rock’. Professional musicians accompanied throughout and the Liverpool String Quartet added their magic to ‘Silent Night’.

The next item in the programme was another congregational carol, with God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen sung by an extremely full cathedral comprising over 1500 people!

Next up, it was Birkenhead High School Academy for Girls turn to help build everyone’s Christmas spirit on the Claus-o-meter, led by Chris Watson, Jeanette Boyhan and myself. Within this group, there were two choirs – the junior school Year 5/6 choir and the full Senior School choir. Dressed in festive red, black and sparkly silver, the junior school choir was first up, singing a two-part version of ‘O Christmas Tree’ in front of the traditional immense Cathedral Christmas Tree glistening with its Christmas lights nearby. The Senior Choir then took over, with an original version of ‘Joy To The World’ which they performed beautifully with real power and emotion. The two choirs then came together to belt out ‘Winter Wonderland’, assisted by the clapping and swaying of all the other children’s choirs out in the wings! Sophia Ziane and Rachel Pratt started off this piece with excellent solos that set the scene for the rest of the song. As a music teacher at the school, I was extremely proud of the performance of the both choirs and I loved seeing the cross-phase choir perform so strongly together. The musicians and Liverpool String Quartet accompanied these choirs superbly.

Carole Clare from Radio City’s Cash for Kids then gave a heartfelt and informative speech about the work that the charity does and how their ‘Mission Christmas’ Appeal works. This, along with the amazing performances of the choirs, inspired some generous giving at the end of the night in the charity buckets. If you want to know more about the work that the charity does or would like to get involved, visit their website HERE.

MiC Lowry performed next, appearing for the second year running. With their amazing lush harmonies, the boy band went down really well with the audience and even more so with all the young performers in the wings. The Liverpool Signing Choir signed behind the band, which made their performance even more special. The two songs they performed were ‘Give Love On Christmas Day’ by The Jackson 5 and The Christmas Song. They gave a flawless performance of these awesome Esco Williams arrangements. A really special moment for me was seeing Ben’s mum, Yvonne, looking on so proudly from her seat amongst the Sense of Sound Singers.

Following a powerful congregational singalong of ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’, the final artists to appear were Sense of Sound Singers and The Liverpool String Quartet, continuing their Christmas collaboration which started the night before at The Bluecoat and continued a few days later at Mayer Hall in Bebington. I was very lucky to perform ‘A Case of You’ which felt really special with the combination of beautiful voices (arranged by Jennifer John) and the heartfelt strings. We first performed this piece as a six-piece vocal ensemble nearly two years ago at the Voices A Cappella Festival at the Black-E so it was really exciting to hear it developed into a full choir piece with string quartet. The final piece was a fabulous, yet crazy and off-the-wall original piece by Jennifer John and Juliet Russell called ‘Winter Clear’. The two ensembles again excelled in their collaboration and it was a powerful high-energy performance. We performed this piece two years ago at the Cathedral without the Liverpool String Quartet and again, it was really great to hear the impact that the string parts had on the piece. The quartet then went on to play three movements of Corelli’s ‘Christmas Concerto’ while the choirs moved into place for the finale. This music didn’t fade into the background though; it was a stunning piece performed by four world-class string players.

Once all the choirs were in place, Simon Greening concluded the evening and wished everyone a Merry Christmas, before the String Quartet led into the finale, ‘Walking In The Air’. With around 400 singers in the performance spaces, this was an epic and euphoric end to the concert. The singers raised the roof of the Cathedral and inspired a long standing ovation! A very special and exciting end to an incredible night.

Massive thanks must go to the following people for all the amazing work they did in making the concert so special:

The Choirs: Birkenhead High School Academy for Girls’ Choirs, Creative Community Choir, Higher Bebington Junior School, Indigo Vibe, Kaboodle Community Choir, Sense of Sound Singers, The Liverpool Signing Choir & Wirral Grammar School for Boys’ Year 7 Choir

The Musicians: Rob Chalmers & Isabel Owen on guitars and The Liverpool String Quartet who are Sarah Hill, Daniel Sanxis, Nick Byrne with James deputising on first violin

The Musical Directors: Jeanette Boyhan, Amy Chalmers, Catherine Hegarty, Kaya Herstad-Carney, Sarah Hinton, Wendy Hill, Jennifer John, Pat Lammin, James Sills, Rachael Tinkler, Chris Watson

The Boybands: MiC Lowry & The Valentine Brother!

Stage Manager: Jessica Hawe

From the Cathedral: Lucy Rafferty, Dave Corns, Dan Bishop, Canon Paul Rattigan & Keith

From Radio City Cash: Si Greening, Carole Clare, Katie Mercer & Bretta Adlen

Artwork: Hannah Waywell

Design Assistance: Flora Pryce

Anyone I’ve missed out, apologies and thank you!