Christmas Carol Concert with Constabulary Band - 2014

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Well AOL did their best, a factual report, editorially correct, but here's the 'behind the scenes' report on Audlem Voices and The Band of the Cheshire Constabulary's Christmas Concert!

These are highly exciting times for Audlem Village, first the MOM DVD, then the BBC and ITV and now............Audlem Voices Christmas Carol Concert. Things just don't get any better!

Ian Jones and Keith West, in the guise of Doormen cum Bouncers, were managing the crowd control on the doors of St James Church. They knew that the ITV cameraman was filming outside, but as he had no ticket he was definitely not gaining entry! The concert was a sell out, which left no room for any gatecrashers and we had to borrow chairs from Hankelow to ensure enough seating for our audience, whilst still paying attention to 'elf and safety! What an amazing sight to see so many people supporting our choir and the band, packed into the church intent on enjoying this exclusive and amazing experience. Some said that our tickets were changing hands for as much as £7.50!

There's something magical about listening to a brass band, whether it's the Salvation Army warming the spirits on a cold winter's evening, or The Band of The Cheshire Constabulary playing to a packed house of over 250 people, in the fine acoustics of St James Church. There's nothing quite like the sound of brass in full swing.

Musical Director David Woollam, a legend in the Brass world, lifted his baton, you could hear a pin drop, and led the band into a rousing version of a 'Christmas Festival Overture,' thereby setting the scene for the rest of the evening. This was followed by 'Drink to me Only' with a poignant solo from Sarah Sanders on the cornet, before audience feet began madly tapping, mostly in time, to 'Rocking Around the Christmas Tree!'

Before the audience had time to settle comfortably back into their chairs — and believe me, there were chairs arranged in every nook and cranny of the church — David had everyone back on their feet to lustily sing 'The First Nowell.'

Then the moment of truth arrived...the magnificent and spellbinding entry of the Corps of Drums. Such pomp and magnificence is rarely seen in our church — apart from at weddings — as they marched down the aisle, in perfect unison, heads held high to 'A life on the Ocean Wave.'

The audience was enthralled. Those in the cheap seats at the back were mesmerized at the sight of the receding drummers uniforms whilst two young sisters, Isabelle and Matilda jumped up and down with sheer delight at the rhythm of the punchy drumming, captivating the rest of the audience as well! This innocent enthusiasm continued as the theme from "Where Eagles Dare' and 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' were performed.

How to follow? Undaunted, Jenny Collis-Smith girded her loins, grasped her baton and took to the stage. Richard Lythall, their talented accompanist straightened his bow tie, Audlem Voices rose to their feet as one, with only the slightest clatter! Standing tall(ish) in their matching outfits — yes, we can wear uniforms too — and performed a perfectly pitched musical rendition of 'Sir Christemas,'

This was followed by the ladies performing an hilarious version of "12 Days after Christmas.' Those in the know, yes, there are a few of us, will understand that the lyrics to this song entail sending back the twelve drummers, at which point Joanna Allman, normally one of the quieter, more sedate members of the choir, snatched one of the drummer's sticks, much to his surprise. loudly proclaiming she was keeping one of the drummers! There is no truth in the rumour that he went home with a smile on his face................

Yvonne Parker, Jackie Thompson and Maggie Millns performed a poignant version of "O Holy Night", followed by the entire choir singing "I saw 3 Ships" and Ding Dong Merrily on High.' The audience then rose to their feet to belt out, sorry, sing 'Winter Wonderland' and 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,' before moving, as one, to the tables containing the eagerly awaited mulled wine and cakes for the interval.

Fed and lubricated, raffle draw accomplished by the Chairman Jon with some appalling jokes, and his glamorous sidekick Stephanie, they returned to their seats in anticipation of yet more unique musical accomplishments, and they were not to be disappointed!

Audlem Voices sang some old favourite carols, 'We Three Kings,' 'Silent Night,' and a new harmonious favourite, which is loosely based on the traditional cry of the city night watchman, 'Past 3 o'clock.'

The audience leapt to their feet once again, sticks clattering to the floor, as their services were once more required for the nostalgic 'White Christmas' and Good King Wenceslas.'

Finally the band took to the stage and performed what can only be described as one of the rousing highlights of the evening. On her Flugel Horn, playing a 'Concerto from Rodrigo's Guitar Concerto,' was the inspirational Rachel Woollam, David's wife, whose playing exudes a breath-taking charm and charisma. It was utterly sublime.

Audlem Voices has been rehearsing non-stop for this concert. This may sound like quite a tedious affair, but I can honestly say that the choir has enjoyed (mostly) every minute of the journey. This is largely down to their brilliant MD Jenny Collis-Smith, AV's answer to 'Superwoman,' and the staunch support of their accompanist Richard, keep a low profile, Lythall!

Finally, a big thank you to the backroom staff, Jan Evans, Sue Jones, Ian Jones, Keith West and of course Joe from Audlem Printers, who doesn't stop working until the sprouts are cooked at Christmas and has the skilled ability to untangle my ideas into amazing designs for posters and tickets.

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