Christmas Concerts | Chichester Festival Theatre | Review

Christmas Concerts

Chichester Festival Theatre,

5 – 10 December 2022

The Band of HM’s Royal Marines Collingwood

and Chichester Cathedral Choir

It’s that time of the year again, and once more the wonderful Band of HM’s Royal Marines arrived in Chichester to deliver a spectacular evening of the highest quality of musical entertainment, sprinkled with humour (from the conductors) and laughter (from everyone); smiley faces and happy voices. The Band’s members were resplendent in their red and black uniforms, brass instruments polished to reflect all our faces, with a backdrop of not two, but FIVE stunning 15 foot tinselled Christmas trees, sparkling with fairy lights and lit alternately with red and green spotlights. All this plus a starry light studded ‘sky’ behind them to make us feel truly Christmas-ified! It worked beautifully.

Gathered in Chichester’s Festival Theatre once more (no masks this time, hurray), complete with Sing-a-Long songsheets, the auditorium was buzzing – eagerly anticipating what turned out to be a musical box of delights. This year the evening kicked off with ‘God Save the King’, following the traditionally warm welcome from the Band Leader and conductor, Captain Samuel Hairsine. His enthusiasm was as contagious as ever, he was clearly delighted to be back on the stage in Chichester again after a busy year.

The programme was perfectly put together, delivering a massive variety of Christmas music from films, shows and of course those of long tradition, a mix of classical and comical, soothing and rousing. Six initial pieces were followed by a section from the fabulous Chichester Cathedral Choir, no longer billed as ‘all male’ but this year with the addition of two girls (after 950 years!) which was a pleasure to see.

A good old sing-a-long to Hark the Herald Angels Sing and a medley of happy ditties entitled ‘Christmas Spirit’ from the Band, and we were into the interval.

Bandmaster WO2 Hannah Trudgeon returned to lead the next section, and was clearly just as delighted to be back to Chichester conducting the Band in front of a full house. The Band had returned to the stage adorned with Christmas hats, flashing lights and tinselled music stands, but most popular was the musician with the complete ‘turkey head’!

The younger choir members had left for their beds and the remaining 6 male singers, together forming the wittily named ‘Close Company’, gave us some truly beautiful a capella renditions of carols and popular Christmas songs. Their rendition of ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ was pure joy to listen to. There were half a dozen more innovative arrangements of traditional and modern pieces from the Band, including ‘Movements from a Carol Symphony’ (Hely-Hutchinson, arr. Williams) and ‘Silent Night Sunset’ which was truly moving.

However, as I’ve said, this was overall an evening of humour and happiness delivering a real extravaganza of a programme, expertly and thoughtfully put together. After another Christmas sing-a-long, we were treated to the traditional finale of The Royal Marines Collingwood, culminating in ‘Hearts of Oak’ and ‘A Life on the Ocean Wave’. This was an evening of sublime entertainment from start to finish: I’ve said it before – it’s akin to participating in a mini version of The Last Night of the Proms. !!

In the words of that ever enduring song from ‘Meet Me in St Louis’ …..
‘Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the Yuletide gay
Next year all our troubles will be miles away’

Well, certainly last night I believe all our troubles were a very long way away indeed!

Approx 2 hours, plus 20 minute interval


Reviewer: Gill Ranson