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Review: Inspiration Choir with Royal Northern Sinfonia, Sage Gateshead

Singers and orchestral players joined forces for a concert of TV theme music at Sage Gateshead

****
Peter Atkinson Photography The Sage Gateshead
The Sage Gateshead

There’s always something energising about hearing a large choir with an orchestra, and this weekend concert saw the Inspiration Choir and the Sage resident orchestra scoring as freely as Germany did against Brazil in the World Cup.

The concert took us into the world of TV music – and what a rich seam to mine.

Inspiration’s music director, Gary Griffiths, was wise enough to mix the familiar and less familiar. It delivered many highlights – not the least of which was when there were no lights.

Hall One was plunged into total darkness at one point, due to electric storms in the area, but the orchestra carried on playing Ron Grainer’s Dr Who Theme without hesitation. Some may have wondered whether the Tardis was about to materialise on stage.

The choice of music from the Muppet Show as the introduction proved a masterstroke with the enthusiasm of its theme tune counter-balanced by the wistful The Rainbow Connection.

Hoppipolia, used by the BBC to promote their coverage of the 2006 World Cup, but better known as music from the Planet Earth series, was simply one of the most memorable pieces I have heard this choir perform – and it was sung in Icelandic.

Irving Berlin's What'll I Do from Birds of a Feather, was played
 

Being a choir in four parts, it was good to hear the different sections showing their true colours, the tenors and basses in I Believe I Can Fly (American Idol) and the excellent alto section in a really sharp intro to Rolling in the Deep (X-Factor USA) and in the concert’s signature song, I’ll Be There For You (Friends).

Among the solo performances, special praise must go to Suzanne Williams’ vulnerable soprano in Fix You (Glee), with an inspired piano accompaniment by the choir’s assistant music director, Mark Deeks, and Sara Morgan’s mature and expressive voice with Irving Berlin’s What’ll I Do (Birds of a Feather).

The finale included a Howard Goodall medley – music from Mr Bean (in Latin), the theme for Red Dwarf from the orchestra and that of The Vicar of Dibley – Goodall’s Psalm 23 – performed in fine style.

Royal Northern Sinfonia supported the singers impressively as always, with some great percussion work throughout.

Narrator Julia Partington had to use every ounce of her considerable presentation experience and a special word for the Sage’s backroom staff for keeping the concert on track.

Rob Barnes

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