Review: Dursley Male Voice Choir’s annual Christmas Concert
12:05 22 December 2016
Dursley Male Voice Choir gave their annual Christmas Concert on December 16 and 17 at the Lister Hall, Dursley. Katie Jarvis wouldn’t have missed it for the world
Now here’s the thing. When I write about Dursley Male Voice Choir concerts, of course I talk about the harmonies, the skill, the melodies, the soaring of 60 (or thereabouts) glorious voices melding together into quivering atoms that lift spirits right up to the concert-hall ceiling.
All that – as choir fans will know – is a given.
But I want to digress a moment. Because what those fans also know is this. The minute you walk into a DMVC concert (especially on home territory), you just – how can I put it? – …you feel part of a community. There are those oh-so-familiar faces among the audience (even if you can’t name them, you see them year after year); there’s a sheer warmth that has nothing to do with the hard-working boiler; and there are huge amounts of fun, right from the moment you’re joshed into buying raffle tickets by the DMVC groupies (OK, then – wives, mums, sisters and friends) (and the prizes are always multiple and generous). What I’m trying to say is this: a visit to a Dursley Male Voice Choir concert is like a group hug, set to music.
But, lads! I know! I can see you all, in my mind’s eye, (in your smart plum uniforms with the black bow ties), yelling, “Get on with it, Jarvis! What did you think of the music?” (Though couched in polite terms; because these are the most urbane of gentleman.) So here we go:
For the marvellously umpteenth time, my Christmas has begun with the annual festive Dursley Male Voice Choir concert at the Lister Hall in Dursley. There are some things you expect, some of which I’ve mentioned. What you don’t expect is compere Terry Pascoe to be half the man he used to be. The debonair, slim version – so a little bird tells me – is upsetting the troupe: “If I can lose this much weight, all the wives think the rest of the choir could, too!” this ‘anonymous’ bird explained.
If we didn’t recognise the handsome figure, then we did at least recognise his dreadful jokes. “Advent calendars are going to be a thing of the past,” Terry tells us. “Their days are numbered.”
And then the music begins. “You might think this is a strange song to start a Christmas concert,” musical director (the wonderful) Barrie Cooper suggests to us. And I guess the Jewish celebrational Hava Nagila isn’t a traditional choice: “But it’s a toe-tapping, infectious song to begin with,” he adds. Besides which, its performance brings together all three members of the musical team: Barrie, Brian Parslow (the assistant musical director), and Paul Phillips (accompanist). And what a team they are!
They led the choir through a thoroughly Christmas programme that, nevertheless, was superb in its variety: the spiritual harmonies of Rise Up Shepherd; Barrie’s own A Joyful Song of Christmas (where you can sing the three harmonies that make it up, in any order you like, and still produce a masterpiece); and the Irish Christmas in Killarney, celebrating one of the choir’s favourite countries to tour.
It wasn’t just a Christmas theme that united these numbers; it was an innate sensitivity and feel for the music that the choir endows them with. Ladies, these might look tough men, but they definitely eat quiche; they definitely weep while watching Bambi. Absolutely superb.
This year’s guest artistes were Iwan Lewis and Olivia Brereton, graduates from the Guildford School of Acting, who now live in Cirencester. Despite Iwan’s sore throat (which wasn’t in evidence – at least, not to me), they were brilliant performers. Their duet from Phantom - All I Ask of You - was simply sublime. If they hadn’t already admitted to being in a relationship together, I’d have strongly advised them to consider it, after hearing that.
“Do we sing to each other around the house?” Iwan asked, rhetorically.
“Yes!” they both replied.
It was also lovely to have rich-voiced Stan Unwin back singing a solo with the Wexford Carol.
But let’s leave the last words to another of the carols on the programme: God’s Surprise, lyrics by a member of the Ionian community:
Who would think that what was needed
To transform and save the earth
Might not be a plan or army,
Proud in purpose, proved in worth?
Who would think, despite derision,
That a child should lead the way?
Indeed. Who would think that not shops, or feasts, or presents, or Amazon, but a simple choir might herald Christmas day?
Thank you, Dursley Male Voice Choir, for another perfect start to the festive season.
For details of future concerts, contact Lawrence Bryant on 01453 890195, or visit the website
For more of the Cotswold Christmas carol services and concerts, take a look here.