Jilly's After our "Festive Treats" Christmas Concert

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Saturday 11 December 2010 - 7.30 pm - Festive Treats Concert Leatherhead Theatre

Festive Treats was what the audience was promised and festive treats is what they got! Not only were there delicious cupcakes in the interval but also a positive feast of festive music. There were many excuses people could have given for not turning up at Leatherhead Theatre including TV temptations like Strictly Come Dancing and X-Factor semi finals and the weather. Had the concert been a week earlier we might have all needed to take a sleigh ride to get there. However, such is the loyalty of our audience, it was a full house of 510 people and the choir and bands were up to full strength...

See some photos taken at the concert BY CLICKING HERE

First up were the talented Young Musicians who enthusiastically set the wintery theme with 5 well-known Christmassy numbers.

High Tea followed - not the cupcakes yet but a professional act by guest artist Julie Simpson with her own unique blend of circus, comedy and theatre which was highly entertaining in more ways than one as she performed on stilts! Whilst she was occupying the audience, the Elmbridge Choir was creeping round the back of the stage in the dark and preparing for our big moment. Even though we all know better, sometimes some of us do not watch Cliff so we do not always all come in on time but, this time, I'm pleased to say that it was intentional with first the altos, then the sopranos, then the basses, followed by the tenors who let everyone know "it's beginning". It took 4 pages of music keeping the audience in suspense as to what was beginning but we finally got there with "it's beginning - to look a lot like Christmas"!

"Can You Hear the Christmas Bells" was included in the programme by request as it brought back happy memories of our trip to Prague in 2008 when we sang it and felt the Christmas joy in the market square surrounded by Christmas lights shining through the darkest night.

From the memories of the cold of Prague, it was next stop to the warmth of the West Indies. Based on the tune of "Mary's Boy Child", we sang "Calypso Lullaby" - mm, lullaby? Poor baby, one minute we were singing softly and sweetly "sleep, sleep, sleep little baby..." but the next moment we were singing fortissimo "Alleluia shout for joy..." then we realised what we had done and had to sing softly and sweetly again "sleep, sleep, sleep little one ..." and, whoops, we can't stay quiet for long, here we were shouting for joy again!

Still on the international theme, our next step was a Spanish Christmas Carol which produced a different set of challenges for us - getting our tongues round the Spanish words. Although called Elmbridge Choir, we do not all hail from Elmbridge and we have several members who have settled in the area from abroad. So we were lucky enough to receive expert pronunciation guidance from one of our own Spanish members. However, being told how to do it is one thing, actually doing it is another!

Dashing on through the programme, our enthusiasm got the better of us and we encountered an obstacle - we were out of sync with the music so Cliff said hey, hey, hey, hey, hey and took the brave decision to reign us in and stop and begin the sleigh ride all over again. This was a bit embarrassing and rather jingle jingle jangled with us but, in our truly professional way we were soon laughing laughing and dashing dashing dashing away but now in time with the music and singing a sleigh song tonight!

With that little hiccup behind him, it was Dry Your Tears, Cliff and on to some more tongue twisters. This time it was with the African Mende language which, luckily, was quite repetitive so we had quite a few opportunities to get it right by the end - and I think we just about did!

I thought Christmas was all about giving but, rather selfishly, we rounded off the First Half by listing all the things that we didn't want and making the point over and over again that all we wanted for Christmas was you, baby!

Next, the 30 minute interval and, at last, the cupcakes lovingly made and donated by choir members were released and enjoyed.

The Second Half began with a grand flourish of rich sounds produced by the extremely professional-sounding Big Band who played 6 numbers including the ever favourite Jingle Bells which had also been played by the Young Musicians but sounded quite different with its unique big band rendering.

"Celebrity" seems to be all the thing these days - to preferably be one or, at least, to know one! Well, we are honoured to have a new tenor in our choir - none other than Ed "Stewpot" Stewart of Crackerjack, Radio 1, Radio 2, Top of the Pops and much more fame! This is a real bonus for us as we can now all say that we know one! However, there was no escaping the fact that his extra talents could come in useful hence he was persuaded to be MC for the evening as well as singing with the choir. He did an admirable job of introducing acts and filling spots that needed to be filled including getting members of the audience to participate in a "Yes/No" interlude with varying degrees of success including one little girl replying "oui" but it was disallowed by Ed as he claimed speaking French was yet another of his talents!

And so to the final set by the Choir. By now it couldn't have escaped anybody's notice that it was Everywhere Christmas Tonight and it was already in the hearts of the young and the old - Christmas where children were filled with delight, particularly the Little Drummer Boy, pa, rum, pum, pum, pum.

A very big and serious question was then asked - "Peace on earth, can it be?" with the optimistic reply "years from now perhaps we'll see". Can it be? Fingers crossed - I wish!

More wishing - this time Christmas - a whole list of wonderful wishes and ideals sung andante espressivo to a beautiful melody with very poignant words particularly relating to us - I wish you music, I wish you song, I wish you harmony. I am sure Cliff will agree that those words sum up what he wants for us and why he constantly burns the midnight oil for us.

There is also something else that he has said during rehearsals that he wants! Well, his wish came true - he was presented with - a Hippopotamus! There were also 7 children in the audience, related to some choir members (mainly me!), who had the same wish so they were invited on to the stage to make their wishes known in song. Accompanied by the choir, they were adamant that they wouldn't be fobbed off with no crocodiles nor rhinoceroses and that only a hippopotamus would do!

But Christmas isn't all about fun and presents as reflected in the next medley of 10 well-known Christmas Carols, all imparting the same message - Rejoice!

Continuing on that same theme, the audience was invited to join in with Hark The Herald Angels Sing which considerably boosted our volume and led to a rousing and poignant end to our Festive Treats. But the audience whistled and shouted for more, it was all over too soon, so we obliged by reprising the Little Drummer Boy and repeated our wish for Peace on Earth.

Such a mammoth and successful production doesn't just happen and several tokens of appreciation were presented to key members of the team. But the biggest thanks should go to Cliff for masterminding the whole thing and for the endless hours of thought and preparation that he put in. He was up at 5 am on the day and he was still at the theatre after 11 pm de-rigging and clearing up! We have to thank also George Bernard Shaw for one of his quotations which has inspired Cliff throughout his life - "The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want and, if they can't find them, make them"! From the appreciative reaction of the audience, Cliff should be pleased that he successfully made this circumstance and that his main wish to bring them music, song and harmony was certainly achieved.

Elmbridge Young Musicians played: Winter Wonderland; Baby, It's Cold Outside; The Little Drummer Boy; Jingle Bells; White Christmas

Elmbridge Community Big Band played: Frosty The Snowman; Santa Baby; Rudolf The Red Nosed Reindeer; Jingle Bells; Santa Claus Is Coming to Town; Sleigh Ride

We Sang: It's Beginning To Look Like Christmas; Can You Hear The Christmas Bells; Calypso Lullaby; Villancico; Nutcracker Jingles; Dry Your Tears Africa; All I Want For Christmas Is You; Everywhere Christmas Tonight; The Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth; I Wish You Christmas; I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas; Rejoice; Hark The Herald Angels Sing

Jilly

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