3 April 2019


NYCGB Fellow Ben Munden on Carols at the Royal Albert Hall

In the days leading up to Christmas, members of the Main Choir shared the stage with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and Royal Choral Society in a series of concerts entitled ‘Carols at the Royal Albert Hall’. Over the course of two days and five runs of the Christmas-carol bonanza, audiences sung-along to old-favourites and were treated to solo performances by NYC and the RPO in the spectacular setting of the Royal Albert Hall, compèred by our very own Greg Beardsell.

During the programme, NYC gave the world premiere of a brand new carol The Jolly Shepherd written by our president John Rutter, whose Christmas carols sit amongst the albums of The King’s Singers, Nat King Cole, WHAM, and Michael Bublé, as festive household favourites. The carol told of a cheery shepherd-boy called ‘Wat’, who, upon hearing the angel proclaiming “Gloria in Excelsis Deo”, decides to go and see the new-born for himself, leaving his trusty dog to guard his flock. Isn’t it handy he’d been brushing-up on his Latin the night before?

Many sports fans will know that the emergence of a Mexican Wave in a crowd is usually symptomatic of a thoroughly boring match several metres below. However, NYC suspects that the Mexican Waves Greg sent around the Royal Albert Hall were not a reflection of the quality of their singing, but really an elaborate effort to gain a larger following on his Twitter account. Spurred on by cheesy Christmas jokes and much mulled wine, the audiences cheered noisily for several takes of Greg’s snapshot video of #RAHChristmas (which reached London’s No.1 trending hashtag on Twitter), and by the fourth take it was clear Greg had the Royal Albert Hall crowd in the palm of his hand.

During the previous week, the BT carol concert (in which members of Chamber Choir sang lustily) had been compèred by none other than Clare Balding, which left fairly large shoes to fill. However, Greg’s enthusiasm and infectious Christmas cheer inspired a rousing rendition of ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’, exploiting the geography of the Hall to choreograph audience participation in the chorus. “Five gold rings” rung down from the rafters with particular gusto; however other honourable mentions go to the suitably pompous “three French hens” delivered from the boxes; and the loud and proud delivery of “a partridge in a pear tree” from the stalls (in blissful ignorance of the fact that they were consistently four bars late, by which point the choir and orchestra were half-way through the next verse, and it was just about time for the whole pantomime to start all over again).

Just when you might have thought the 150-person-strong ensemble was about to come off the rails, the capable baton of Richard Cooke unified choir, orchestra and audience for a suitably-grand conclusion to the event.

The consistently high standard of performance was a huge credit to NYC’s vocal and physical stamina. The choir was delighted to be re-united after a long autumn term, and enjoyed spending their break-times together in South West London catching up with friends, shopping for last minute Christmas gifts for family and the NYC Secret Santa brilliantly organised by our Social Secretaries. We look forward to Project 3 in April, where NYC meets for their first residential course of the year!