For the penultimate concert of Michaelmas term, Flute Choir presented ‘Christmas with a Twist’, in support of the national disability charity, ‘Sense’. In the intimate setting of the Kingsgate Room, DSU, a rather sizeable audience gathered. Perhaps this can be attributed to Flute Choir’s commendable publicity efforts, including a recent stint on BBC Radio Tees.

The concert began all of a sudden with a dramatic and eerie rendition of Carol of the Bells performed off-stage, introducing the audience to the gentle tone of the Flute Choir’s sound world. The Flute Choir then began properly with Santa’s Symphony (arr. Ricky Lombardo), which was full of festive tongue and cheek. Despite a few slips in intonation, the piccolo solo was confidently performed by Lucy Cunningham. By Sussex Carol, the ensemble had settled and gave a more assumed performance. The Flutewise Theme was particularly enjoyable, with jazz rhythms, extended techniques as well as commendable articulation emanating from the group. The Flutewise Theme perhaps lacked a little energy and I felt that it could have been taken at a slightly faster tempo. Nevertheless, the first half of the concert was most enjoyable.

‘Christmas with a Twist’ also performed a large number of classic Christmassy crowd-pleasers, including Deck the Halls, Joy to the World, We Three Kings and Silent Night. Ding Dong Merrily on High (er and Higher) arranged by Gareth McLearnon was a humorous twist on the original carol, travelling upwards through all the keys.

This was a challenging arrangement and although there were a few slip ups with wrong notes, the Flute Choir pulled it off They also showcased various lesser-known instruments of the flute family, such as the alto flute, played by Zoe Balmforth and bass flute, played by Cara Wharton, which was particularly interesting to see. Extended techniques were prominent in Jumpin’ Jingle Bells (arr. Gareth McLearnon) and were masterfully handled, included blowing down the instrument and producing a percussive effective by tapping the keys down without using breath. Overall, a very impressive and intriguing performance.

The highlight of the concert was a medley from The Sound of Music. The Flute Choir were evidently enjoying themselves throughout, and produced a beautiful blend and clarity of tone which was carried by the acoustic of the Kingsgate Room.

Flute Choir also performed Baroque classics, namely Handel’s Halleljuah Chorus and Bach’s Badinerie, during which various members of the sextet played some lovely solos.  

For this concert, the group was confidently led by President Cara Wharton, albeit with a few false starts. It would have been great to see more interaction between players and animation, rather than heads buried in music, however this did not prevent the Flute Choir from delivering a most enjoyable festive evening.

‘Christmas with a Twist’, however, was not your average concert. It was given in aid of national charity ‘Sense’, who help disabled people of all ages communicate with and feel connected to the wider society. This is a charity clearly close to President Cara Wharton’s heart, as she gave an emotional account of her own involvement with ‘Sense’ as a volunteer and how their work is changing lives. This was a very touching moment, so thank you to Cara for sharing her experience. The audience also heard a speech from the DSU ‘Heads Up’ President, a mental health awareness campaign group.

All in all, ‘Christmas with a Twist’ was a delightful evening. In their endeavour to raise money for charity through music, Flute Choir truly captured the meaning of Christmas! I look forward to attending more performances from the Flute Choir in 2018.

If you would like to make a donation to ‘Sense’, please do so at: https://www.sense.org.uk/support-us/donate/