Review: The RSNO Christmas Concert, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Usher Hall

The Snowman was skillfully narrated by Siobhan Redmond
The Snowman was skillfully narrated by Siobhan Redmond
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***

This programme left a strong impression of having been cobbled together without enough thought being devoted to its component parts. Although it was not advertised as a family event, it goes without saying that including Howard Blake’s The Snowman is guaranteed to bring out parents and their children – from toddlers to teenagers. That went well, but it was obvious that some items in the second half of the concert were out of place.

Conductor Chris Bell, having immediately established a rapport with his listeners, launched into a smart arrangement of well-known tunes entitled Christmas Carnival by Richard Bissill. It included the likes of Good King Wenceslas and Jingle Bells and was politely received.

The Snowman followed on – with all the trimmings. A large screen had been set up in front of the organ pipes, the narration was very skillfully handled by Siobhan Redmond and there was an excellent boy soprano soloist. It caught and held the attention of one and all – from start to finish.

The RSNO Chorus opened Part 2 with a fast-moving arrangement by Karl Jenkins of In Dulci Jubilo. Then Maestro Bell taught the chorus of Go tell it on the Mountain to the audience. So far so good!

Next, however, came Jenkins’s Son of Maria and some Spanish carols arranged by Edinburgh-born Tom Cunningham. By then a few infants were out in the passageways, amusing themselves by inventing their own movements to suit the music. They kept going throughout Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride.

Everybody rehearsed actions for all twelve days of Christmas – which slowed things down and led to a longer performing duration than usual. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing rounded off proceedings.

It remains to urge those who are involved in planning this annual event to think more seriously about it and, if necessary, to take advice from people who can come forward with creative suggestions concerning music that not only suits the occasion better but also has the capacity to interest both young and old.

There is more to a successful Christmas concert than just turning out on the platform wearing fancy hats or antlers.