The festive season got well and truly underway in a blaze of colour and a fanfare of sound as Surrey Music presented their sell-out annual Christmas musical extravaganza “A Perfect Christmas Night” in Christ Church in Woking on Saturday night, and from start to finish it was a night full of surprises!
As they arrived in droves, audience members were greeted by colourful lighting and soothing Christmas music providing a warm yet vibrant ambience, and the welcome messages shown on the two large video screens created a sense of excited anticipation and set the tone for the rest of the evening.
The audience of 300 enjoyed seasonal music from the quite superb 90-voice Elmbridge Ladies Choir, led by their Musical Director, Christine Parker, and the marvellously entertaining 130-strong Elmbridge Choir, led by Cliff van Tonder, Founder and CEO of Surrey Music. The ladies’ choir’s sublime performance included a varied programme of songs from traditional carols to an African lullaby with percussion accompaniment, while the mixed-voice choir performed stunning arrangements of well-known carols to show stoppers from “Frozen” and “The Greatest Showman”. Each song was skilfully accompanied and enhanced by background videos – some comedic and some moving – designed to match the spirit of the song.
The spectacular musical programme also included two specially-invited guest artists. Chase Adams, an up and coming pop singer from Brighton, opened the show with a soulful performance which gently eased the audience in to the evening’s entertainment, while Elite Elton, the UK’s premier Elton John tribute act, took to the stage in flamboyant fashion, performing several crowd-pleasers, and had the whole house “hopping and bopping to the Crocodile Rock” by the end of the evening! A truly stunning, memorable and absolutely perfect start to the Christmas season.
As is usual with Surrey Music concerts, the focus of the evening was very much on supporting the local community and charitable causes. Stephen Ireland, CEO of Pride in Surrey, gave an impassioned speech advocating acceptance and tolerance of the LGBTQ+ community, and told the audience of his exciting plans for the very first Pride festival in Woking next August, while Cath Stamper, CEO of York Road Project gave a poignant yet positive speech about the work of the charity which supports those experiencing homelessness in Woking, and thanked choir members for their generous gifts and donations which had been delivered to the charity’s Day Centre. The Mayor of Woking, Cllr Will Forster, whose chosen charity is York Road Project, reinforced this message and urged the audience to contribute to a retiring collection which raised a fantastic £1,639 including a further £600 from Surrey Music.
Surrey Music was founded in 2005 by Cliff van Tonder, whose drive and ambition, musical work, and his ability to get things done has been well recognised in the local community and further afield. His impact has been huge, not only to the members of Surrey Music but to the wider community. As a result of his tireless devotion, more than £175,000 has been raised for charitable causes, and many hundreds of people have benefitted in many different ways from his commitment and seemingly endless enthusiasm and passion.
To complete an already superb and highly entertaining and enjoyable evening, Amanda Fisackerly, COO of Surrey Music, took to the stage to announce the quite wonderful and very recent news that, following a nomination for recognition of his positive impact on the community, Cliff has been honoured with a British Citizen Award for services to the Arts, and will receive a specially struck medal of recognition at a formal presentation at the Palace of Westminster in January.
After the whooping, clapping and cheering had died down, the evening ended with a reprise of one of Elmbridge Choir’s most joyful festive songs, “Everywhere Christmas Tonight”, while the audience disappeared into the night, full of festive cheer, wine and mince pies! “A Perfect Christmas Night” indeed!