Music Review: Halle Christmas Concert at the Royal Concert Hall

Words: Kevin Stanley
Friday 16 December 2022
reading time: min, words

Kevin Stanley reviews the Halle's Christmas Concert at the Royal Concert Hall...


Watching the Hallé is a truly wonderful experience. This World renowned orchestra from Manchester has made Nottingham its second home, and every time they play at the Royal Concert Hall, it's close to sold out and an event not to be missed. The Christmas Concert is even more of a draw and having seen the 2021 offering, I was sure that this year would be just as enjoyable.

The programme opens with the Humperdinck Overture: Hansel and Gretel followed by Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro: Voi che sapete; Rossini Barber of Seville: Una Voce Poco Va and Saunders' Fairytale Sleighride. Later comes Handel Imeneo: Sorge nell’alma mia; and the most well known tunes of the evening are excerpts from Bizet's Carmen: Habanera and Orchestral Suites 1 and 2,  Coleridge-Taylor's Christmas Overture. All pieces that have yuletide connections

Katie Bray is the superb guest star with her delicious mezzo-soprano singing voice. She takes the vocals on several operatic pieces. She is playful and captivating.

I’m sad to report that Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite and Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy were missing this year, but I suppose the programme from year to year must change regardless of how fabulous tunes such as these are. Also missing, and I can think of no excuse for this omission, was Jingle Bells! So it was only in the second half of the concert that the better known Christmas tunes were showcased such as Bing Crosby’s Winter Wonderland, the 1943 Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane hit Have Yourself a Very Merry Christmas that featured in the movie Meet Me in St. Louis and Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride.

A few groans could be heard, but mostly laughter!

Regular Conductor Stephen Bell took charge of the orchestra, with a new line up including recently appointed first violin amongst other changes. Bell read out audience submissions of bad Christmas jokes. A few groans could be heard, but mostly laughter! It’s a very fun bit of audience interaction that Bell clearly gets a lot of enjoyment from.

Unlike last year there was no tinsel on the music stands, nor until the final tune of the evening did any of the players wear Christmas hats. Still this sort of fantastic music, played by a top-quality orchestra is enough to warm the heart of the most miserable Grinch.

The Hallé Christmas Concert at the Royal Concert Hall on Wednesday 14th December 2022.


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