Well, what can we say? We predicted we would raise the roof and we did! What a night! We printed 175 programmes and they sold out in days.
Ian Jones, in the guise of Doorman cum Bouncer, was managing the crowd control on the doors of St James Church and still people kept on coming. We put out all of the chairs and still that was not enough — what an amazing sight to see so many people supporting our choir and the band, packed into the church intent on enjoying a unique and amazing experience.
The Cheshire Constabulary Brass Band's primary role has always been to foster good public relations through music, and they presented an imposing sight, proudly wearing a tunic style uniform associated with the more traditional image of the British Police Service.
Not to be outdone, Audlem Voices were resplendent in their matching outfits, however this was not a night of competition, more a night for the musical meeting of minds.
The concert started with a moving rendition of the South African National Anthem, in a tribute to the late Nelson Mandela. This was very much a last minute and poignant addition to the programme, performed perfectly by the choir with the whole audience standing in recognition of a truly great man of our times.
Then on came the band! Audience expectation rose as they performed their own 'Christmas Festival Overture', an Intermezzo from 'Cavalleria Rusticana' followed, and then, oh great joy, the audience rose to their feet to participate in 'The First Nowell' with both the band and the choir!
The bands' Corps of Drums performed a "Royal Marines" style routine marching in perfect line down the church's aisle, skillfully failing to behead any of the tightly packed audience, before joining with their band for the theme to "The Great Escape". Their musical skills were a sheer delight to behold and mesmerized both the audience and the choir who were straining their necks in the choir stalls to glimpse such artistic feats of talent!
David Woollam turned out to be not just a talented and well respected Musical Director, but a bit of a comedian as he introduced each piece with both humourous and informative facts to a rapt audience. Just watching the individual musicians in the band was exhilarating as they interacted with each other, especially during 'Sing, Sing, Sing, when the two drummers, jackets removed, performed some astoundingly fast pieces of synchronised drumming — it was indeed a sight to behold!
Audlem Voices, not to be outdone and with Jenny Collis-Smith, their Musical Director taking centre stage, then launched into their own programme of 'An Introit for Christmas', 'The Angel Gabriel', 'The Lamb', followed by an harmonious rendition of 'Adam lay y bounden'.
Richard Lythall, Audlem Voices handsome accompanist, somehow managed to maintain his professional dignity whilst squashed between the band, Jenny and the choir!
To complete the first half, the audience once more stood to attention, backs slightly straighter than usual due to the company they were in, and belted out, sorry, sang their hearts out to the music of 'Winter Wonderland and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer'.
Fortunately this perfectly pitched musical rendition from audience, band and choir covered the glugging of mulled wine being poured in the background as Doreen, Jan, Sue and Steph desperately tried to fill 250 glasses of necessary lubrication to fuel the audience in the interval, and yes, it is true, that one unfortunate member of front of house was sent out during the first half on a mission to buy even more mulled wine and mince pies as the capacity of the audience appeared to grow every time heads were counted!
The second half commenced with the choir, suddenly bedecked in Christmas Hats and a variety of flashing accessories, singing some old favourites, 'Jingle Bells', 'Twelve or so Days of Christmas', a slight, but harmonious interpretation of the original, 'Away in the Manger', 'O Holy Night', before the audience, once again, threw caution to the wind and whole heartedly joined in to sing "Let it Snow', and 'White Christmas'.
David Woollam then rose to his full height and once more took to the stage to direct the band through "Viva La Vida', Brown Bird Singing', 'Sleigh Ride', followed by an awe inspiring rendition of "Sing, sing, sing", 'The Christmas Song', and ' French Carol Suite'.
The evening finally concluded with a rousing version of 'O Come, all ye faithful', band, choir and audience coming together to raise the roof of St James!
Breaking News — This event has been such a resounding success that we are going to entertain you all again next year. Put December 14th 2014 in your diaries folks!
Our thanks to David Woollam and The Cheshire Constabulary Brass Band for this joint venture with Audlem Voices resulting in a truly uplifting performance, to the helpers behind the scenes who helped with refreshments and to you, the audience, who participated in a night to remember.