Hallé Orchestra. Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham. December 15 2021. 4****. William Ruff



December 15 2021

Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham


Review: William Ruff



A fizzily festive Christmas confection from the Hallé

Wednesday’s news may have been grim for the entertainment industry (‘Music venues report catastrophic audience declines’ etc) but that didn’t stop the people of Nottingham turning out in high numbers for one of its most popular festive traditions, the Hallé Christmas Concert.


Conductor Stephen Bell was back, able to turn his hand to everything from Tchaikovsky to Jingle Bells, liberally sprinkling his audience chats with groan-worthy cracker jokes spiced with inevitable digs at recent Westminster goings-on.  He and the Hallé were clearly determined to make up for last year’s cancelled Christmas and, for two hours at least, the Royal Concert Hall became a worry-free zone.


In this they were helped by one of the best singers ever booked for one of these events, the baritone Quirijn de Lang, well-known to Nottingham’s music lovers as a stalwart of Opera North.  And it mattered that he is an actor as well as a singer, with high charisma, a gleam in his eyes and a lovely voice.  He vividly characterised Rossini’s Figaro and Bizet’s Escamillo in the programme’s first half whilst relaxing into numbers like ‘On the Street Where You Live’ (from My Fair Lady), ‘Let It Snow’ and ‘White Christmas’ in the second.  In fact, he could have sung all night and the audience wouldn’t have minded one bit.


The Hallé was in relaxed mood too, with plenty of Santa hats on display.  There were lots of fizzily festive numbers such as Nigel Hess’s jolly Christmas Overture and music from The Polar Express.  If the title Pop Looks Bach didn’t seem familiar, the fact that it’s the theme tune of the TV series Ski Sunday certainly brought a smile to people’s faces.


If you like your Christmas confections sweet and light, then this would have been for you.  Unlike in previous years there wasn’t much of substance (selections from The Nutcracker notwithstanding) but the audience left happy and clearly glad that they hadn’t decided to stay at home.


The Hallé

Stephen Bell, conductor

Quirijn de Lang, Baritone

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