Friday, December 22, 2017


‘Santa Claus is coming to town…’. Yes, well, though I got on quite well with Santa some seventy years ago, I wouldn’t get off my butt these days to go all the way to town for him…

History relates I gave him a huge kiss and he was quite undone. At 3 years old already!
However, ‘Ali Harper is coming to town’ is something else. New Zealand’s National Treasure in little old Rangiora? Time to get out the little red car …

 A Christmas Joys concert. Omigod. I only know one quality Christmas song. And they’re sure to do the wretched Drummer Boy … but on the plus side, there’s the splendid Ali … so it’s a yes from me …

 Well, they did do the wretched Drummer Boy, but it was a largely enchanting two hours. La Belle Ali – looking and sounding more like Rosemary Clooney daily – sensibly didn’t attempt to carry the whole show on her dainty scarlet-clad shoulders. She had, as guest(s), the children’s group Voices Co and its creator and director Julian Hay, winners of TV’s Naked Choir contest. And the mixture was delightful.

I can’t say more about Ms Harper than I’ve said before. She is a consummate entertainer with an immaculate voice (she even sings ‘Vissi d’arte’ – admittedly transposed a tad – in her touring show). And she also arranges the shows that she presents, when she’s not starring in the theatre, with enormous taste and skill, and above all a knowledge of her audience. Today we started with ‘Jingle Bells’, rose to a Clooneyish ‘White Christmas’ then rose to the peak of Adolphe Adam’s Cantique de Noël (maybe the best Christmas song ever written) before getting everyone except me to join in another ‘Jingle Bells’ and ‘Silent Night’. I couldn’t take part because the keys are not favourable to my tattered basso profondo!

So, Ms Harper, as usual 10 out of 10.

And the backing group? Well, I can quite well see and hear why they are winners. From the tiddliest laddie or the plumpest teen, I didn’t hear a single false note or a whiff of out-of-tunedness. Nor did they make that churchy sound favoured by English cathedrals and the Vienna Sängerknaben. They sang like children. Fresh, light and natural. And with head voice. They are probably too young to be allowed to watch the Z-Factor and Mr Hay will, in any case, stop them bawling above the stave. Young boys and girls, you were all grand, but the prize for the best voice production goes to the two littlest boys. Oscar and Ben. Wide open mouths, and in consequence a pinging sound which walloped me in Row Two deliciously. Soloists en herbe. Loved you.

Anyway, en somme, even if Christmas isn’t exactly my thing, I had a sweet afternoon … and Ali Harper, Voices Co and the glorious Cantique de Noël are an impeccable way to spend two hours which would have otherwise been spent delving into my Jewish ancestry …

God bless you, one and all.

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