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Review: This is the Day - Inspiration Choir and Royal Northern Sinfonia at Sage Gateshead

Royal occasions over the years provided the inspiration for the latest Inspiration Choir concert on Tyneside

****
Sage Gateshead
Sage Gateshead

Take one large community choir, blend with a distinguished orchestra, stir in a couple of fine soloists and a local celebrity compère, top off with a programme of music to satisfy a demanding audience and you have a recipe to stand the test of time.

Inspiration Choir have thrived on this formula for years in the North East and Yorkshire, and have recently extended their successful brand to the south coast in a collaboration with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.

In this Hall One concert the choir’s distinctive mix of classical and pop worked to perfection.

The theme was music from royal occasions across the centuries. Two of the earliest pieces were instrumental only – Purcell’s Funeral March for Queen Mary II, from 1695, played starkly by the brass and timpani sections of the orchestra, and Handel’s famous and lush Arrival of the Queen of Sheba.

The choir opened with Zadok the Priest from Handel’s music for the coronation of King George II. With nearly 300 voices blasting out the opening lines, it always guaranteed to hit the spot.

John Rutter’s anthem This Is The Day, written for the 2011 wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, was a prelude to standards such as Beethoven’s Ode to Joy and the Hallelujah Chorus – both ideal for people to sing along to under their breath.

The undoubted highlight also came in the first half, a mesmerising performance of Michael Maybrick’s The Holy City – a favourite of Edward VII. Both orchestra and choir poured every ounce of passion into this piece, originally written for a solo singer.

It was uplifting and inspirational in that classic Victorian Salvation Army style and was applauded long and loud.

The second half was a real scene shift from the classical, to songs of the very recent past, especially those featured in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee concert, performed outside Buckingham Palace in June 2012.

The Daily Mirror The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on their wedding day
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on their wedding day

The door was open for the two equally memorable solo singing performances of the evening, Suzanne Williams’ poignant version of Ed Sheeran’s The A Team, sung to piano only, and Sara Morgan’s beautifully controlled Diamonds are Forever, proving that this song doesn’t need Shirley Bassey.

There was a rousing finale with The World in Union, sung to Holst’s I Vow To Thee, Benjamin Britten’s 1961 Leeds Festival version of the National Anthem (with everyone on their feet), and Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March #1, with its compulsory singalong, Land of Hope and Glory.

The orchestra, led by Bradley Creswick and tightly packed on a crowded stage, were conducted by the popular Mark Deeks, Inspiration’s assistant music director, deputising for the indisposed Gary Griffiths.

The BBC’s Charlie Charlton was the evening’s serene and chatty compère and Cliff Lee was the cheery and meticulous signed song interpreter.

It was a real A Team enterprise from all involved, from the back row of the choir through to the front of the orchestra.

Inspiration Choir’s next concert, Cinema Paradiso’ is in the same hall on July 12 at 6pm.

by Rob Barnes

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