REVIEW: Actually Gay Men’s Chorus – Bring on the Men@St Andrews Church

After working with the same musical director for more than 10 years, Actually Gay Men’s Chorus appointed a new MD last summer as Jason Pimblett passed the baton on to Samuel Cousins.

Their Christmas Show, Let it Snow in December was very much a work in progress and gave Samuel an opportunity to show us what he intended to do with the chorus.

Their latest offering Bring on The Men at St Andrew’s Church on Saturday, April 8, left us in no doubt of his direction. In just 10 short months he has completely remodelled the focus of the chorus.

The Actually’s trademark ‘wall of sound’ is still called upon when needed but Sam has moulded the singers into a tight musical ensemble, who listen carefully to each other when singing, giving them a new found confidence when singing softly, which ultimately makes for a more musical performance. Their rendition of Benedictus and Sondheim’s Being Alive performed with Jason Sutton were a revelation.

Jason Sutton hosted the first half of the show as himself. It featured many favourites from the Actually’s back repertoire including stirring performances of This is the Moment, Tonight/Somewhere from West Side Story and a medley of Andrew Lloyd Webber numbers which included a ravishing rendition of Music of the Night

Soprano Sophie Causbrook joined the chorus in Prima Donna and for a truly epic arrangement of Adele’s Skyfall.

Miss Jason returned to host the second half in drag which allowed everyone to relax and let their hair down a bit.

The performance of Man of La Mancha and Impossible Dream made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up as did the sensitive interpretation of Stars, while Broadway Baby gave some of the soloists from the chorus a chance to shine. But this night was all about the chorus with Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers and Anthem from Miss Saigon showing just how much improvement they have made.

A good concert needs good programme planning and this concert was very well constructed. Each half was perfectly balanced, all brought to a climax with a fine medley of numbers from Miss Saigon climaxing with the wonderful Schonberg & Boubill number, Last Night Of the World. They sang it like they really believed it was.

Every soloist during the evening acquitted themselves very well, as did Simon Gray on piano and Colin Blanchflower on keyboards.

But, this was first and foremost an evening about the chorus and the progress they have made in the last 10 months. 

My choral teacher at music college always said a good choir should make you feel like you are being swaddled in a fur coat. Actually Gay Men’s Chorus certainly managed that for me and I think everyone in the church felt the same as the audience reaction right from the start was ecstatic and the ovation at the end was really heartfelt.

The chorus should congratulate themselves for making an inspired appointment when they chose to work with Samuel Cousins. He has the skills to take them to the next level and be a great chorus.

Your next opportunity to hear Actually Gay Men’s Chorus in concert will be at Love Actually on Friday, August 4 at St Andrews Church starting at 7.30pm.

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