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Hallé Christmas Concert

Published on January 3rd 2006.

For some reason, this year it’s not feeling like Christmas. Don’t ask me why – I’ve done all the normal Christmas things – Christmas parties, Christmas songs, Christmas decorations, Christmas films… and I’ve spent hours wandering around the Christmas markets trying to force myself into a festive mood. But I’ve felt about as Christmassy as, I don’t know, Egypt in March. Short of listening to Fairytale of New York on repeat, I didn’t really know what else to try.

So last night, in a desperate attempt to find some festive cheer, I took my unwitting boyfriend along to the Bridgewater Hall for the Hallé Christmas Concert. The concert consisted of a selection of conductor Carl Davis’s favourites – a mixture of film music, classics, and immortal seasonal songs. I couldn’t go wrong.

I have never been to a Hallé concert before, but I have friends who are advocates of their annual outdoor concert at Tatton Park and that had made me quite excited to see them. I’m hardly a classical music buff, but I do really enjoy watching live orchestras so short of all getting up and walking off stage mid-song they couldn’t really have gone wrong in my eyes.

The concert opened to a gorgeous version of Sleigh Ride, conducted by Carl Davis in a “wacky” red satin jacket which he later replaced with a similarly nutty green one. What a card. Such displays of festive craziness became quite commonplace throughout the concert, as a maverick clarinet (or oboe?) player seated towards the back of the orchestra sported a pair of antlers throughout, and the mezzo soprano Frances McCafferty got a laugh by.. wait for it.. coming on stage in a santa hat for the encore. It was nuts.

Photo by Neil Redfern

Seriously though, it was pretty good. Cheesy in the extreme, but all very good humoured. I was a little confused as to what Hansel and Gretel (with Frances McCafferty on vocals dressed as a witch), or Harry Potter had to do with Christmas, but there were plenty of other Christmas songs to satisfy me, with a mixture of purely instrumental and vocal led.

But here’s the best bit… it made me feel Christmassy! For the first time this year. It happened during Let it Snow – I looked at the soprano Frances merrily singing away in flashing antlers, then at the Christmas trees behind the stage, then at the spoils of my Christmas shopping around my feet, and I finally began to feel like it was Christmas. I went home humming a strange megamix of White Christmas and Jingle Bells, and stayed up late wrapping presents and drinking wine.

If you missed out on last night’s concert and you need a bit of Christmas cheer – try to make it along to the Christmas Carol singalong at the Bridgewater Hall on Christmas Eve, which I have a sneaking suspicion will be even cheesier than last night. Fantastic!

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