A Five Choirs Concert for Christine
Five hundred fans packed St James’ Parish Church on the cool evening of Saturday May 19th 2012 in recognition of the incomparable contribution Chris Best has made to the musical life of Weybridge for so many years. Her dedicated work with the five choirs on show merited this grand showcase and nothing less than supreme performances would testify to the high standards she has always expected. The buzz as all found their seats (queues having formed a good hour earlier) was palpable - a sense that something very special lay ahead and the glossy programme promised as much
Departure Lounge for three of the choirs awaiting their choral flights was the Parish Centre, video-linked to the action. Months in the planning, the organisation and very hard work of many stalwarts (you know who you are) brought an extraordinary professionalism to the proceedings. I will not spare the superlatives - it was mind-blowing, the equal of a West End production, culminating in the 220 members of the Combined Choirs blasting the roof off with three closing numbers. Producer Brian Prothero looked like a cat that had got the cream and Musical Director Gareth Giles (“the most brilliant musician I have ever known” said Chris later) was everywhere - Master Commander - conducting or at the piano, often bothChris sat at the back, centre aisle, and Brian’s warm welcome to her was met with huge applause. Master of Ceremonies Guy Beringer (“it was great fun”) greeted the huge audience from the pulpit. First reminding us that net proceeds from the concert would go towards the cost of equipment for the Kingfisher and ICU wards at St Peter’s Hospital, Chertsey, he then introduced the evening’s first singers, the blazered Weybridge Male Voice Choir, who opened with the Soldiers’ Chorus, then on to the Russian folk song Kalinka with shapka-hatted soloist Andrew Wilson in fine voice. The rolling 'Song of the Jolly Roger' and the gentle harmonies of 'An Evening’s Pastorale' continued their versatile set, ably conducted by Ed Pepper, and they wound up with a strong finale in 'Morte Criste'Mike Wood was their accompanist.
We stood for St James’ Church Choir’s opener, the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah: sung with clarity and gusto, it paved the way for Rutter’s 'Look At The World', a winner for our choir with glorious harmonies, key changes and a capella phrases all brought to a moving close. Sung in Latin, Bruckner’s 'Locus Iste' eased along nicely before Stanford’s Te Deum in Bb, specially requested by Chris, got her nod of approval. Sarah Burston was accompanist, with Gareth conducting. Now it was the elegant Treble Clef Ladies’ Choir’s turn, conducted by Scot, Lesley Paterson and accompanied by Gareth. They started with 'Sing A Song of Sixpence', with clean harmonies and neat phrasing, before Rutter’s arrangement of Faure’s 'Cantique de Jean Racine', sung in French. 'Chattanooga Choo Choo' was sprightly and then Karl Jenkins’ beautiful 'Adiemus' closed this fine choir’s set
The delightful St James C of E Primary School Choir started with Michel Legrand’s 'Sweet Gingerbread Man' before the lyrics of 'It’s A Gas' got everyone chuckling, with the choir’s hand signals and whistling too. Eric Clapton’s 'Tears In Heaven', that saddest of songs, came next, and finally Irving Berlin’s 'I Love a Piano'. Gareth conducted from the piano and this choir was happy, musical, and a joy to listen to. Which brought us to The Weyward Singers, directed by Gareth again, and they began nicely with Goodall’s 'Psalm 23' (used in TV’s 'Vicar of Dibley') before a perfect performance of Jerome Kern’s 'The Way You Look Tonight'. The lilting 'Java Jive' included St James’ Roger Scott “oo-wahhing” with the best of them before another great performance by this choir, this time Berlin’s 'Blue Skies', which featured good sax and trumpet solos from a first rate band before Gareth got the chance to jazz vamp it a bit on piano
The illustrious Richard Tanner (whose mother Dame Mary Tanner, President of the European Council of Churches was present this evening) played some wonderful organ tonight – it was a privilege to hear – and mention must be made of a highly competent orchestra who played superbly.It should also be noted that Gareth Giles did all the band orchestrations and Combined Choirs vocal item arrangements (their parts played on CD and circulated a few weeks ago to choir members to help their practice
The grand finale involved all five choirs, as one. It began with O Fortuna (‘Carmina Burana’), one Emmaus Group member describing it as “a tsunami of sound” – a magnificent performance, a showstopper. Gareth clapped his choral multitude in appreciation. Next came Mozart’s beautiful 'Ave Verum Corpus', sung in Latin, before Gareth’s own 'Lights of The World', a cracking composition which had all choristers in full voice and one Treble Clef singer saying afterwards “I’d do it all again just to see Gareth’s face with that one!” All of which brought the wonderful list of choral works to a close...ah, but it didn’t. The show “A Chorus Line” has the song 'One' in it. The Combined Choirs now sang this catchy number – and then did an encore with some special lyrics for Chris, including “One! Moment in rehearsal and you can forget the rest – Christine Best is second best to none, son – watch, breathe, give her your attention – do we really have to mention – she’s the one
Guest of Honour Christine Best stood out in front of all tonight’s choirs and spoke from the heartShe had loved every minute of it, “hadn’t it been a joy? The concert had happened through everyone’s goodwill – and singing is the greatest thing you could do. She thanked Brian, Gareth, the choirs with whom she has been so closely involved for so many years, Richard, the orchestra, indeed everyone involved. “This has been the most wonderful night of my life"