When does your Christmas really start? Never mind present buying in September, or lights up from early November. Next Tuesday, at St Saviour’s Church, the Renaissance Singers present their annual Gala Concert – and it’s an unmissable date to declare the season open.
The Renaissance Singers have been a feature on the town’s musical landscape for more than 40 years, and director Shirley Barrell and organist Paul Collins are long-standing members. But their relatively small chorale, perfect for an unaccompanied motet or a Palestrina mass, cannot quite perform on equal terms when you wheel in a vibrantly magnificent brass band.
So here’s the trick. You build your own choir, calling in a few favours and tempting those who simply cannot resist one extra Big Sing. You give them the rather ad hoc name of St Andrew’s Singers, but none the worse for that – and rather aptly recalling that these Gala Concerts actually began round the corner at the now-closed St Andrew’s Church.
And so it was that, three or four weeks ago, 60 or more singers gathered for their first rehearsal on a chilly Tuesday night, and did what they love doing.
Shirley Barrell is the ultimate People’s Conductor. She leads from the front, singing all four parts – occasionally all at once. On Tuesday, she will march her choir into the fray alongside soloists, readers, and the full superb forces of Lewes, Glynde and Beddingham Brass Band, under director Ian Stewart.
Singers, beware Shirley’s warning that “bandmasters take no prisoners!” But audience members, be reassured; the combination is irresistible, a brilliant blend of musicality, warmth and seasonality. Mulled wine is promised afterwards, but you will already be filled with that warm seasonal glow.
The Gala Concert is at 7.30pm on December 18, tickets £10 (under-12s free). By Kevin Anderson.
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