The RSNO Christmas Concert, Usher Hall, Review

Rating (out of 5)
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Christopher Bell (conductor), Blythe Duff (narrator), Adam Insall (soloist), Celia Petrie (soloist). RSNO, RSNO Chorus.

The RSNO Christmas Concert is one of the few pieces of entertainment available that not only appeals to all the family, it brings families together.

Looking round the auditorium, there were babes in arms, grandparents of 80 plus and all ages in between. Everyone loves Christmas, everyone loves a sing-song - although admittedly some take longer to get going than others. But if granny’s giving it her all to your left and a toddler’s bouncing along to your right, then those of the more reticent middling ages are somehow shamed into getting involved and end up loving throwing their hands in the air and making silly noises, despite their inhibiting better judgement.

The stage of the Usher Hall comfortably held the 70 or so members of the RSNO and their instruments, and it was wonderful to have every movement of this magnificent orchestra in full view. A roar went up as conductor Christopher Bell took his place on the central podium, with sparkly shoes that matched the unmistakeable twinkle in his eyes. Bell has been conducting and presenting this sort of thing for over 25 years now and is very adept at making an audience feel at home. He has a lively, warm and slightly mischievous personality that seems to bring out the best in those around him – professionals and amateur gesturers alike.

The performance began with a Christmas Medley that warmed everyone up, before moving on to the main event. Every year the RSNO play the sound track to a showing of the film The Snowman, but each year a different narrator brings something slightly different to the performance. This year, The Snowman was narrated by Blythe Duff with Adam Insall singing the famous solo. It was a flawless performance by all, with Duff bringing a gentle intimacy to the story. However, it was the experience of watching The Snowman accompanied by a live orchestra that brought out the magic. It was 25 minutes of pure Christmas bliss.

After the interval, the orchestra were joined by the RSNO Chorus and the stage was suddenly full of tinsel and silly hats. The violinists came dressed as Snow White and a number of dwarves, and Bell arrived in a very special sequinned blue coat – he said someone had once called his dress sense ‘almost classy’ so he had decided to throw good taste out of the window all together and just go for it. Throughout the second half, Bell conducted the audience as well as the orchestra and ensured everyone – and I mean everyone – joined in with all the singing and all the actions. By the end, a real Last Night of the Proms excitement had been created – a gentile, yet at times rather raucous, buzz.

A proper feel-good, fun and fabulous, family experience absolutely not to be missed.