The audience needed no warming up as they settled
in to the evocative setting of the
A portion of the 102-strong choir took the stage for the first number, a soulful rendition of ‘This is Me’ during which the remaining members strode full-throated down the dual aisles, creating a wonderful surround-sound introduction to their collective voice.
The Oxford Gospel Choir pulled off something quite tricky alongside proving themselves to be in very fine acoustic fettle. They managed to come across as absolute consummate professionals with commanding vocal presence, while also being community-spirited, human and in reach.
All dressed in black and with the women wearing beautiful coloured neck-scarves and the men decked out in matching coloured neckties, the choir were visually arresting while their voices naturally took the main stage. Soloists would flash a smile as they were welcomed up to the front to lead each number, and a sense of pride and of joy were conveyed by all throughout the performance.
The event was rounded off with the donning of fake antlers, silly glasses and the like, for an encore rock version of ‘Run Run Rudolph’, but before that ‘lapsed members’ were enthusiastically welcomed up on stage for a powerhouse performance of ‘Ain’t No Mountain’ led by soloists Jill Ward, Claire Ousey and Hannah Jago. They flitted up from their seats to join in from the wings, a spontaneous testament to the closeness between choir and audience at this lovely Christmas event.
Perhaps it was this closeness, as well as the outstanding vocal presence of the choir, which carried the festive spirit so well. It may be that the confidence this sense of connection brought the choir emboldened them to range as far and wide in song choice as they did, well beyond the focus on Christmas carols I had been expecting.
There were tips of the hat to the old standards, but always with a twist - a wonderful staccato rendering of ‘Hark the Herald’ being the standout amongst these. Yet the set encompassed a huge range of traditions and styles, brought lovingly into a Christmas Gospel context, including a stunning version of Primal Scream’s ‘Movin' On Up’, ‘Baba Yetu’ performed in the original Swahili, and the emotively charged ‘Joy’, with soloist Emily Groves, and ‘I Feel Your Spirit’ led by outstanding soloists Kelly Blok, Eberechi Anucha, Rachel Murphy and Emma Dearman.
In true festive spirit all refreshments in the
interval were provided free of charge and donations were taken throughout the
evening for the very worthy charity Myeloma