The afternoon of 8th December around seventy of us from Sing! filtered into St. Barnabas Church to prepare for the much anticipated Christmas concert.
We worked through some final niggles in our set and were joined by five singers from the Choir of Bethlehem, here as part of their UK tour. They gave a stunning run through ‘Oyouniha’ (Her Eyes), an early taste of their performance. From our set, ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ – a creative mashup of several Christmas songs – posed a few remaining problems for the basses, two group huddles later and I can say (with complete impartiality) that we’d nailed it.
Five minutes before the concert the choir warmed up as usual: with a mixtures of arpeggios and pretending to chew aggressively. On stage we faced the packed out audience, and began with an Otis Redding classic: Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay. After a term of practice, each section sang with confidence, with the parts meshing together nicely.
A few highlights included: singing in Arabic with the Choir of Bethlehem for ‘What Child is This’, the interplay between the different parts in an idyllic ‘Feelin Good’, and re-appearing on stage adorned in Christmas gear for ‘Santa Claus’ is Coming to Town’. Adding to the performance was the rich accompaniment, including at times ukulele, sax, and indeed, beatboxing – do try and guess which song each of those went with.
The Choir of Bethlehem made the concert particularly special when they took to the stage they spoke of their lives and work in helping the children of Palestine and treated us to songs on those things which music communicates so effortlessly: love, struggle, community, and a simple joy for life.
After a swelling encore through ‘We Are Young’, we sang ourselves out to a compulsory ‘We Wish you a Merry Christmas’. My thanks to the committee at Sing! for organising the choir and putting together this concert to the rest of choir – I can’t have asked for a better way to start singing, to the audience: thank you for coming along and supporting us.
To the Choir of Bethlehem: all the best for your onward tour and beyond, you’ll brighten their evenings as surely as you’ve brightened ours. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!