Love Actually – the contribution by Actually Gay Men’s Chorus to this years Brighton Pride celebrations was the perfect way to mark the 50th Anniversary of the partial repeal of the Sexual Offences Act 1967 in England and Wales.
Hosted by Kara Van Park, whose performance of With You (from Ghost) in the first half made the hair on the back of my hands stand on end, firmly established the use of drag queens in these hosting roles not only appropriate, but part of good programme planning.
The first half was near perfection with fine featured solos from cheeky Jack Lynn (Crazy little thing called love), Ian Hollande (What I did for love), and the magnificent Brian Gannon (Your eyes from Rent). Billy Kelly was a revelation in (Can’t help lovin’ that man) and I could have listened to Gareth Ashley and David Harris (I don’t remember you /Sometimes a day goes by from The Happy Time by Kander & Ebb) sing all night. Samantha Howard joined the chorus for Nessan Dorma and I’ve never been in love before.
Everything about the first half was first class. The quality of the solos, the balance of solos to chorus numbers and the variety of the song choices. Beautiful girls from Follies was an inspired choice as was Bizet’s Pearl Fishers Duet, all brought to a wonderful finale from Puccini’s Nessan Dorma with Samantha Howard’s musical, soaring vocals.
The chorus were on top form, as were all the soloists. It all made for as good a single half of a concert I have heard in a long, long time.
The second half of the show contained many numbers new to me and possibly the chorus, but at times they seemed slightly more tense.
Kara Van Park, Samantha Howard and Brian Gannon were very impressive in Not getting married today (from Company) as Kara got her tongue round the notoriously difficult dialogue, demonstrating in the process how secure her technique is. David Harris’ interpretation of Dancing on my own was hauntingly beautiful, while Philip Davis understood the importance of the lyric in Power of Love. Richard Tredgett was the featured soloist in Sam Cousins arrangement of Stay which for me personally was the musical highlight of the evening.
Other choral highlights from the second half included the lovely arrangement by Sam Cousins of Hushabye Mountain (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang), a medley from Wicked, the anthemic We Belong and Sams ensemble arrangement of This is the moment.
All performances were held together beautifully by Simon Gray and Colin Blanchflower on keyboards and Nick Rocks on drums.
This chorus enjoys singing and it shows in their faces. With less singers than usually, the balance throughout the evening was excellent, especially the first tenors who made sure the melodies were prominent all evening.
The concert was raising money for Inclusion for All who provide anti homophobia training to educational organisations to help prevent bullying in schools and The Rainbow Fund, who give grants to local LGBT+/HIV organisations who provide essential front lines services to LGBT+ people in the city.
If you want to sing with Actually Gay Men’s Chorus, they have an open evening on Thursday, September 28 at 7.45pm at St Andrews Church. there is no audition and you don’t need to be able to read music.
Your next opportunity to hear Actually Gay Men’s sing will be at Let it snow on Friday, December 22 at 8pm at St Andrews Church, Hove.