REVIEW: The Military Wives Choir and Tideswell Male Voice Choir at Buxton Opera House

Tideswell Male Voice Choir. Photo contributed.
Tideswell Male Voice Choir. Photo contributed.
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A standing ovation from a sell-out audience crowned a night of sparkling songs from leading choirs and stars of the future.

The Military Wives Choir and Tideswell Male Voice Choir joined forces at Buxton Opera House where students from top music colleges took centre stage.

This was a reunion for the choirs who first performed at the venue last autumn. However, Sunday’s concert was sufficiently different for spectators not to feel a sense of deja vu, especially as this year’s Wives Choir was made up of representatives from the Chivenor and Salisbury choirs rather than just the Chivenor contingent who performed last year.

Under conductor Rachel Smith and accompanied by Sue Trick, the ladies got their programme off to a gentle start, lending their lovely, pure voices to Annie’s Song, Get Here and Rule The World.

Their second selection included the obvious choices, Wherever You Are and Stronger Together, but the best was saved until last. The set-closer was Songs That Won The War which included Keep The Home Fires Burning, White Cliffs of Dover and We’ll Meet Again, all beautifully led by soloist Nicky Scott.

Good though the ladies were, they were shaded by the Tideswell choir’s polished and moving performances of Bridge Over Troubled Water, He Ain’t Heavy and a stirring performance of Anthem, the latter being the stand-out song of the set. A late addition to the programme was a request for Bohemian Rhapsody, which the choir first sang publically at Gawsworth Hall this summer, and which was beautifully accompanied by the choir’s piano maestro Christopher Ellis.

Tideswell’s principal conductor and musical director Dennis Kay has a reputation for encouraging young singers and at this concert spectators saw some of the best take centre stage.

Charlotte Hoather, a vocal music student of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, gave a dazzling performance of Time To Say Goodbye, sung in Italian and English, before an equally powerful and moving rendition of O Mio Babbino Caro.

Counter-tenor Kieron-Connor Valentine, 18, hit the heights with a tremendous performance of Come What May reaching very high notes with the ease and professionalism of someone twice his age. It came as little surprise to learn that this talented singer has performed at the Royal Albert Hall.

The youngest soloist in the first half, Georgia Odette, 16, a member of the National Children’s Choir, enthralled the audience with her rendition of Love Never Dies and clearly has a bright future ahead of her.

Comedy came in a musical sketch from 19-year-old Erin Alexander, who is studying classical vocal performance at the University of Chichester. She took on role of a bespectacled girl with a dishevelled appearance who was tempted out of the wings and into the spotlight. The shy, retiring violet was transformed by the power of song into a blooming, marvellous diva who trilled her way through excerpts from La Traviata in a fabulous performance of The Girl In 14 G, my favourite solo of the night.

The second half of the concert was devoted to Les Miserables, taking choirs and soloists into the realms of musical theatre. Tideswell’s men wore red, white and blue sashes across their chests, the Military Wives wore shawls and mob caps and the soloists were dressed as revolutionaries and peasants.

Top solos came from Charlotte Hoathe who gave an emotionally-charged performance as Eponine, singing On My Own and A Little Fall Of Rain; Georgia Odette putting heart and soul into Fantine’s I Dreamed A Dream and wiping away tears at the end and Phil Rigby, formerly of Bakewell and now studying at Oxford University, in the role of Javert who sang Soliloquy.

Matthew Mellor pulled both comic and straight performances out of the bag, firstly as the scruffy innkeeper Thenardier performing Master of the House, aided by Erin Alexander as the missus, and then as smartly-dressed Marius singing Empty Chairs At Empty Tables.

Youngest soloist of the night was Madeleine Osborne, a year 5 pupil at Bury Grammar School, who enchanted the audience with her pretty rendition of Castle On A Cloud in her role as the young Cosette.

A dramatic combined performance of Do You Hear The People Sing? for the finale stirred such emotion in the audience that everyone in the circle seats rose to their feet.

Closing the show, Master of Ceremonies Dennis Kay said that Tideswell Male Voice Choir had raised £125,000 for cancer charities over the last five or six years. The choir’s next big fundraising concert is the Christmas Spectacular at the Wnding Wheel, Chesterfield, on December 8.

GAY BOLTON