REVIEW: Celebrate! Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus

All communities have their high and low moments. Celebrate! the 10th Anniversary Show with the Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus (BGMC) at the Theatre Royal on Sunday, November 22 was one of those high moments, not only for the singers on stage but for everyone lucky enough to be in the audience on the night.

Brighton Gay Men's Chorus

10 years in the making, BGMC celebrated with their favourite numbers from the last decade, in a faultlessly constructed programme of music and comic interludes, beautifully crafted together into a production that ran smoothly and highlighted the strengths of this group of musicians and the background team that make it all happen for them.

The chorus have come a long way since their early appearance on BBC TVs Last Choir Standing in 2008. They now have a unique maturity to their performance, which comes from being secure in their performance and most importantly being able to communicate their love of singing to the audience. A rare feat.

Musical highlight of the evening for me was undoubtably Michael Jackson’s Earth Song with solo vocals by Nick Ford. The performance of both soloist and choir was quite simply sensational! Nicks vocals were well up to the technical challenge posed by the huge vocal range needed to pull off this number and he managed to capture the etherial nature of what the song is all about. The chorus raised their game to match the quality of the vocal and left this old lady, for one panting for breath at the end of the performance. For me, those four minutes of music captured the 10 years of hard work that have gone into crafting this choir into the outstanding music machine it is.

Over the years, solo numbers featuring singers from the chorus have been a feature of all BGMC shows. This year Charlie Bedson (Nothing Stops Another Day), Rod Edmunds and Sadao Ueda (Flight), Pablo Cazoria (These are the days of our lives) and Ant Pay with his haunting rendition of Clown upheld that fine tradition of giving members of the chorus the chance to shine out front.

The 4 Skins: A Doo Wop Ensemble featuring Dean Cowland, Andrew Farr, Tim Salter and Andy Williams brought a huge roar from the audience. Their performance was cool, suave and they made it all sound so laid back and easy.

Similarly the timing and humour Adam Betteridge, Graeme Clark, Daniel Da Rocha and Jon Taylor brought to their performance of Lady Marmalade/That’s the way I like it, was spot on.

Chorus numbers included a rarely heard arrangement of Tainted Love by comedienne Lorraine Bowen. Lorraine who shot to national fame last year with her performance of the Crumble Song on Britain’s Got Talent was Assistant Musical Director of the Chorus from 2006-2009. Her arrangement was sassy and gave the chorus the opportunity to show how competent they were with their tongues.

The chorus shine best when singing classic numbers that are stripped back and bare. Morning Train was refreshingly simple and a breath of fresh air. In Both Sides Now they managed to tease out the simple beauty of the musical line while the audience swayed along to the hauntingly beautiful Moon River.

Uptown Funk showed the chorus are more than equipped to meet the challenge of singing contemporary material with a stunning arrangement from Marc Yarrow. The performance was on the money, on the beat and showed some of the old daddies on the back row of the chorus could get down and dirty with some of the younger singers up front. It was wonderful to watch.

Finally all the old chorus favourites were there, Your Disco Needs You, It’s a sin, Hung up, I am what I am and The Rhythm of Life were performed with effortless ease while the chorus managed to get to the emotional core of You’ve lost that lovin’ feeling and Stars from Les Miserables which was my favourite ensemble performance of the evening.

Musical interest was broken up with some very funny monologues by Colin Eeles: The spirit of the chorus, Jon Taylor: The chorus widow, Stephen Tucker: Chorus development co-ordinator, Ralph Corke: Super fan, Graeme Clark: BGMC HR co-ordinator and Dibbles (with Paul Charlton): BGMC Tour manager. 

Behind every successful group there is a great production team. The Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus musical director Marc Yarrow has successfully moulded together one of the great male voice singing groups in the country. Tim Nail the accompanist is musically secure, technically secure and has the ability to make you forget there is no orchestra or band accompanying the choir. It is the ultimate skill an accompanist brings to the table.

Quinton Young the Creative Director brought years of West End experience into making sure the show looked great on stage and moved seamlessly along from chorus number to solo to monologue with effortless ease.

This was a job well done. A great choir, singing great songs in a great setting and all coming together for a great cause, to raise money for MindOut the LGBT mental health charity.

The next Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus Show is Seven Deadly Gay Sins on Friday 6 and Saturday 7 May at St George’s Church, Kemptown, Brighton

For more information about Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus, click here:

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