Sunday, 18 December 2016

Review: Jingle Bell Christmas, Royal Albert Hall

"With those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings"

Just a quickie for this slice of Christmas party fun at the Royal Albert Hall. Never having been to one of these before, and so not realising quite what a tradition it is for some people as witnessed by the level of tinsel, fairy lights, and light-up Christmas jumpers and hats on display, Jingle Bell Christmas was an unexpected delight in its unashamedly retro way. A concert made up of Christmas pop hits from yore, plus the inevitable Mariah Carey, its non-stop festivity proved pretty much impossible to resist.

An energetic John Rigby conducted the London Concert Orchestra and vocal ensemble Capital Voices to great effect in this iconic venue, and there was something rather wonderful about being inside the Royal Albert Hall in party mood. The times I've been, like for Björk, Follies, even a Christmas carol concert six years ago, have always been more serious affairs and so it was just nice to be in there with such an informal, and fun, atmosphere for once, something akin to what the last night of the Proms might feel like.

Soloists Laura Tebbutt and Tim Howar took us through a selection box of Christmas treats - 'Do You Hear What I Hear', 'Winter Wonderland', 'Mary's Boy Child', 'Jingle Bell Rock' etc etc but for me, the best moments were the more participatory ones. The traditional run through 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' with different sections of the audience doing the actions was huge fun and the entire place belting out 'Last Christmas' along with Howar with shining mobile phones aloft was an unalloyed pleasure.

My only real quibble came with the Jingle Belle Dancers, a dance troupe whose choreography (perhaps deliberately) aped 70s variety shows with a lot of floaty wafting, that didn't always fit with the music or feel needed tbh. And with the women dressed in bum-skirting tunics while the men flashed nary an inch of skin in long-sleeved shirts and trousers, there was something weirdly retrogressive about their presence - is this really what people are nostalgic for? The 70s rather than the actual classic Broadway feel that would have worked better (for me at least). Who knows, it was all good fun in the end - Merry Christmas!

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