Gala Christmas Concert

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Mary Carewe and the Pakefield Singers, Marina Theatre Lowestoft

The RPO finished its third year of residency yesterday at the Marina Theatre with an enchanting potpourri of Christmas favourites. This orchestra truly is a versatile ensemble - it is hard to think of another group who can play Handel and Tchaikovsky superbly, then turn to 'Santa Baby' and 'White Christmas' and sound just as genuine and musical. Conductor Nick Davies had just the right approach, encouraging the audience to sing along, but never appearing condescending.

Vocalist Mary Carewe's style of singing may not be to everybody's taste, but her approach fits this sort of concert - at least in the popular numbers, but not quite so convincingly in a crooned solo verse of 'Once in Royal David's City'.

The Pakefield Singers were in good form. This group began as a ladies' choir just five years ago, and the tenors and basses are still vastly outnumbered. The men were gathered together in a central block on the stage, and were mostly able to balance the sound of the upper voices. This is a choir who know how to watch a conductor, and they clearly enjoyed the performance as much as the audience did.

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