Big Help Music Christmas Show
There are Christmas Shows, CHRISTMAS SHOWS!, Then there is the Big Help Music Christmas Show. Garnering talented artists from all over the Midlands and beyond, with lights, lasers and smoke effects, this show was a spectacular in the true sense of the word. The biggest single star of the night was the wonderful acoustic of St Andrews Church in the centre of Rugby. Artists arrived from points as far away as Cambridge, Derby, Tamworth and Milton Keynes. One of whom has recently been on prime time TV, another who in the new year will embark on an eight episode series on mainstream TV (already "in the can" so to speak.) the show was bursting with talent.
I had seen many of the acts before, some as recently as the night before, some who I had not seen for many months and others who I had not had the pleasure of seeing ever in the past. Because of the immensity of talent on display, this will not be a normal show review in my style. more an appreciation of the whole, otherwise it might end up rivalling the Iliad or War and Peace in size. Merely picking out highlights and I apologise to those who do not get a mention. Every act was good, even wonderful. The slick show was opened by a song from the wonderful Strawhouse Singers who held out "A candle of hope" as a Christmas Wish. Then came the youngest member of the cast, who was new to me, Bianca Bartlett Richards, who looked angelic in her white fairy dress, sang "Jingle Bell Rock." She was clearly nervous until she got into her song, by the time she made her appearance in the second half she was well into the swing of the show.
Nath Brooks from Tamworth who writes 90% of his own material rocked the church with his immaculate guitar and his clear strident voice in "Stitches". Chloe Jane has a voice that sounds as though it would suit stage musicals as she sang "I'll be home" and "Somewhere out there". Brooke Layla fresh from her appearance on the Michael McIntyre show on BBC One rendered an absolutely magnificent version of "Running up that hill." Kelliemarie from Ryton on Dunsmore delighted us with "Rocking around the Christmas Tree" a slight departure from her normal self penned fare. Then putting the guitar away she sang a beautiful version of the Eva Cassidy's "Songbird" It was nice to hear her sing this as I have not heard her doing so before. Rachel Cameron as well as helping with stage management performed "The parting glass" and "Lonely this Christmas" using a spoken section in the middle which was most effective. Her Dad accompanying her on guitar. We liked Trinity Trappett who has a soaring voice. Rheo has just had a really big weekend. Her charity single "Our World" has been released and she has spent a whole day promoting it at the Clothes Show, a gig on Friday and this show on Saturday, yet she still looks as though she has been freshly unwrapped and immaculate. Saloni Boyina has a fantastic range in her voice and sartorial awareness too. In the first half she wore a long evening dress and in the second, a pair of spray on trousers(!) Amy Clare without her usual pianist displayed a lively guitar technique. as she sang and played "What would you do?" and sang her own song, "Memory."
My wife and I have a soft spot for Ffion Lawrence-Jones and in the church surroundings she has never sounded (or looked) better. The closing act of the first half was a group who have had the most arduous journey. Hailing mostly from Derby they are the Invisible Friends Choir. So called because they all suffer from illnesses and afflictions, some life threatening, which are not immediately apparent. They are enthusiastically led by Abbriella May, who I describe as mad as a box of frogs. No-one could doubt her dedication to the choir. In the second half she and her great friend Lorna Dea (who was acting as stage manager all evening) sang a lovely duet, "Strong" which also describes the inner core of the choir, they can't half sing too by the way.
The angelic voice is Alisha Jayne Long was particularly appropriate for "Silent Night" and "Once upon a December". Emily B delighted us with "Mistletoe" and "My only Wish. The whole show was stitched together with commentary and exceedingly corny jokes (just right for the occasion) by Tom Cowan, one of the members of the Strawhouse Singers. The final number included the whole cast and crew and most all the entire audience in a rousing rendition of "Merry Christmas Everyone."
Behind the scenes Nicky Dawn Stewart, not only oversaw the sound along with BHM's usual sound engineer Blane Chalmers, but also found time to play the piano for some artists and even sing herself, (Phew!) Dutch Van Spall controlled the lighting and special effects like a frenzied octopus to excellent effect. I am sure that The Church of St Andrew has never before seen anything like it. It is indicative of the way that all the BHM artists support each other, that the role of marshalling artists, sorting out their various connections on stage and even taking tickets at the door was carried out cheerfully by Lorna Dea one of the performers herself.
The amount of work in the preparation and execution of this show is mind boggling and the pair that must take the most credit are Nicky Dawn Stewart and Dutch Van Spall. Without their vision, talent and enthusiasm, surely a plan for a concert like this would certainly be placed in the boxes marked "too difficult" by others. What they do for young artists is immeasurable and not only locally, as their tentacles spread far and wide, even to other continents. We are lucky to have them.
Just a quick footnote, from where we sat it was difficult to get good photographs, but here are a few to give a taste. The first one is of the MD of the Strawhouse Singers and show organiser, Nicky Dawn Stewart talking to the Mayor of Rugby Cllr Mrs Sally Bragg and her Consort.