Festive Favourites with Alan Titchmarsh, at Symphony Hall, Birmingham
Christmas came early at Symphony Hall thanks to a comprehensive sprinkling of festive favourites from the CBSO Chorus.
Gardener, author, presenter, TV chat show host and radio star Alan Titchmarsh MBE read various seasonal stories, poems and anecdotes – some of which he published as an anthology called Fill My Stocking in 2005.
He also pointed out that he was an old friend of the hall, having first appeared there on its opening night in 1991.
That’s 18 Christmases ago, when Centenary Square was also being turned into a flagship public plaza.
This week it was not only a building site again, ready for the new Central Library, but the walkways were dark, narrowed by the craft fair and slippery underfoot thanks to the icy conditions.
The Hall of Memory’s gardens were being trampled over by overtaking younger pedestrians who didn’t care about getting their shoes covered in mud.
Given the advancing years of a typical CBSO audience like this one, getting older folks safely to and from the ICC is an overlooked reason why building the new library on the site of the former car park next to the Rep is a shortsighted decision.
Even though the hall was very warm compared with the Arctic conditions outside, many of the older listeners kept their coats on while Alan sat back on his own stool to enjoy the first of five two-hour shows.
Conductor Simon Halsey led his orchestra and chorus with real vigour and, on such a freezing afternoon, it was a heartwarming production for young and old alike.
Tearjerking, too, when Alan read a letter from a 38-year-old soldier on the frontline describing how English and German forces alike put down their First World War guns in the Christmas Eve trenches of 1914 in order to sing to each other while they buried their dead.
The piece which followed, John Henry Newman’s words to Lead, Kindly Light from Howard Goodall’s Eternal Light – Requiem, would have been worth the admission alone.
But there was also everything from O Come, O Come Immanuel to Scots Nativity, In the Bleak Midwinter, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, The Twelve Days of Christmas, Sleigh Bells! and, of course, O Come, All Ye Faithful.
A very happy Christmas indeed.