Notorious * * * *
at the Mac, Cannon Hill Park
Review by Shahid Naqvi
Fed up with pop songs blaring at you from all sides while out Christmas shopping? Growing increasingly panicky about the head-on approach of the Big Day and still having a million and one things to do?
If so, you could have done worse than to get yourself down to Mac on Saturday night for some chilled out festive music sung by Birmingham chamber choir Notorious, formed 10 years ago to widen the appeal of choral music by mixing classical with popular works.
Saturday's gig by this 25-piece outfit was all the more remarkable given that until 3pm that day it was without a venue. It was originally scheduled to take place in the Rainbow Warehouse in Digbeth, but the singers were forced to look elsewhere after discovering it was fully decked out for a techno dance night scheduled to start straight after the concert.
Mac stepped in to save the day - and in a remarkably short space of time the stage at which earlier that day I had watched The Borrowers, was transformed into a fairy-lit haven of Christmas cosiness.
Starting off with a couple of more obscure songs, Notorious quickly waded straight into the evergreen festive favourite, White Christmas.
Other classics followed - a cheerful rendition of Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire and a pacy version of Jingle Bells that almost made you feel you were riding on a sleigh in the snow. My own favourite was a soulful, SmoothFm-style version of Santa Claus is Coming to Town that would have done Burt Bacharach proud.
Current Birmingham Young Professional of the Year Clare Edwards expertly conducted the group through their multi-layered workings of well-known tunes.
In contrast to the over-produced, commercial pop jingles, this was a welcome reminder of just how evocative and beautiful the human voice can be.
The night was complemented by the excellent Mike Kemp Trio who also got into the festive spirit by bashing out some feet-tapping popular Christmas hits such as I'll be Home for Christmas and Walking in a Winter Wonderland.
The evening finished with Silent Night, with confetti snow falling from above. All in all, a wonderful winter treat. And now I'm officially ready for Christmas.