Review: Phil Cunningham’s Christmas Songbook, Queen’s Hall

Phil Cunningham chose some non-festive tunes which fitted in perfectly

Phil Cunningham chose some non-festive tunes which fitted in perfectly

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PENNIES are being pinched, belts tightened and budgets cut this Christmas, but thanks to Folk’s own Mr Fezzywig, last night’s audience at the Queen’s Hall were able to say bah humbug to the Scrooges, Grinches and assorted yuletide killjoys and lose themselves in a couple of hours of twinkly, tinselly joy.

Cunningham was joined on stage by his array of Christmas elves including Kris Drever, John McCusker, Eddie Reader and Karen Matheson and the room was lit up with a mix of festive favourites plus slow airs, jigs, reels, marches and many a heartrending tune.

Highlights of the evening included swinging versions of God Rest You Merry Gentlemen and Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, a wonderful mash up of Winter Wonderland and Jimmy Shand’s Bluebell Polka and Karen Matheson’s Haunting Gaelic Silent Night.

However it was a strictly non-Christmas tune that proved the showstopper of the evening with Reader and Matheson dueting on Shubert’s Ave Maria during which you could practically hear the hairs standing up on the back of the audience’s necks.

More so than in previous years there was a large amount of unfestive fayre on show last night but it meshed with the feel of the season rather than its themes and the best, including Drever’s Shining Star and the country classic Scarlet Ribbons, fitted perfectly among the sleighbells and baubles.

There were plenty of opportunities for the audience to sing along, not just with the traditional carolling which is always a hit with the crowd but also on tunes such as the show’s theme song, Sweet Christmas Bells.

What makes this show such a success is that it never feels like a show at all, just a group of mates getting together to celebrate the season with some more of their friends and it’s one of the most convivial, warm and enjoyable places you can be this time of the year.

So why not take what you’ve saved on your economy mince pies and value brand sherry and use the cash to treat yourself to this luxury Christmas gift?

Rating: 4/5