Review: Inspiration Choir & The Orchestra of Opera North

Saturday 15th December 2018 at Leeds Town Hall.

There really is nothing like the warm glow created by a fine choir and an accomplished orchestra. Combine such a sound with Christmas carol favourites and you have a splendid ninety or so minutes of festive entertainment ahead.

Music Director and Founder of Inspiration Choir Gary Griffiths leads the Orchestra of Opera North and the choir through a range of popular favourites. There’s some nice variation in styles to be spotted with pacier renditions of mellow songs and vice versa. This is predominantly a very traditional sound though and the music is interspersed with the ‘word of the Lord’ read by Liz Green to create a spiritual atmosphere as the words ring out over the grand setting and high ceiling of the Victoria Hall.

Songs include firm classic favourites Sing Noel, Silent Night and Little Town. More upbeat sounds can be heard in Ding Dong Merrily on High and some wonderful medleys of melodies. Silent Night is definitely a resounding highlight, with the choir and orchestra creating heavenly sounds at full enveloping volume before ending in a silent verse signed by the choir – something truly beautiful in concept and execution.

More collectively signed music would be a welcome addition to the performance. There’s little movement among the rows of singers bar a few who just couldn’t let protocol keep them still while the music pressed them to express their enjoyment! It may be the gospel choir in my background speaking but I’d have loved a little token movement mixed in with the impressive display of the choir in a perfected formation with arms straight by sides with uniformly sincere faces.

Song interpreter Cliff Lee is hugely engaging to watch. He’s highly animated and displays a real joy in his vocation, giving the words full force with musical movement – particularly wonderful in the rousing Pure Light, Perfect Light and Let Earth and Heaven Reply.

From Hark! The Herald Angels Sing to O Come All Ye Faithful, this is a beautiful musical event. The sounds created by the 47-strong Opera North Orchestra and the 206 singers of the Inspiration Choir are something to behold and they are a particularly perfect source of the Christmas cheer of yesteryear.

The Inspiration Choir and the Orchestra of Opera North play events throughout the year. Check local listings at the Town Hall (here) and on their websites (here and here).

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