If I am being honest I hadn’t heard of the Tideswell Male Voice Choir before I previewed their Lowther Gardens concert a few weeks ago, in fact I hadn’t even heard of the Derbyshire village where they hail from. It was clear reaching the venue that a capacity crowd was on the cards, with queues out of the building. How much this was due to the reputation of the choir and how much it was down to die hard Les Mis fans turning out wasn’t clear, but either way the many people who turned up on a rather miserable Sunday night were certainly not disappointed.
Billed as a Les Miserables tribute the concert featured the songs of the famous musical. Clearly a male voice choir would struggle with the full Les Mis repertoire unaccompanied, and a number of female guests were integral to the performance. Unfortunately a cast list was not supplied at the event, but the singer taking on the part of Fantine was particularly strong vocally. The light relief provided by the bartender and wife / court entertainer characters was also well done, providing some light and shade in what can be a rather overwhelming tone of melancholy otherwise.
The 40 strong cast were all present on stage throughout the performance, with the exception of a couple of brief costume changes. The principles were sat at the front, before standing to do their spots, with the main body of the choir behind them. It wasn’t too long into proceedings before some rousing harmonies were being performed, these were among the highlights of the concert.
Almost all the principal singers sang powerfully and with feeling, and the audience was soon on their side. By the interval all performances were being received with generous applause. At the culmination of the whole concert there was a long and heartfelt standing ovation in recognition of an excellent night’s entertainment. Rather touchingly, there was also an ovation from the cast for the audience.
It is perhaps harsh to pick faults in an evening that was so well received, but I would mention a couple of things. In particular the large screen in the backdrop was probably a distraction more than it was helpful. Some rather literal images, e.g. of fireplaces and hospital beds, didn’t really work and it might have been better to restrict its use to key information about scene changes / key plot developments. Another personal bugbear was several of the principles drinking from various commercial bottled waters during the performance; whilst I appreciate that a giant screen also isn’t in keeping with the French revolution anything that doesn’t fit with the overall image being projected can be a bit jarring when suspending belief.
The attention to detail continued after the performance with musical director Dennis Kay standing at the exit of the theatre thanking people for attending and wishing them a safe journey home. If you do get chance to catch up with the Tideswell Male Voice Choir, and their friends, some time soon on the Fylde it is recommended that you do.
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