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Spirit of Christmas at QPAC

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by John Andrew (subscribe)
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Thirty Years of full houses can't be wrong

Sometimes it is no bad thing over Christmas to celebrate the familiar traditional food, family friends, and music to which we love to sing along.

Especially if the music is led by excellent musicians, who seem to be thoroughly enjoying themselves.

For about thirty years Brisbane folk have been showing up for "Spirit of Christmas" where an eclectic mix of hymns, much loved classics, popular Christmas songs and sing-a-long indulgence is served to an audience most of whom know what to expect, and who are looking forward to it.

Producer Paul Dellit knows how to blend the familiar with a little bit of the new and the unexpected. Pumba and Timon from the Lion King emerged on stage to a roar of delight, particularly from the younger members of the audience. Billy Bouchier (who I am reliably advised was delightful "eye candy") celebrated his graduation from the Brisbane Conservatorium Musical Theatre Course by singing "The Holy City" to a full to capacity Concert Hall. What a boost to his career, and we look forward to seeing him later on in the year in "The Pirates of Penzance" directed by Simon Gallagher.

Up in the Choir loft were over a hundred voices the QPAC choir and the Brisbane Chorale, in holiday mood, but still more than capable of reaching the thrilling depths of Handel's "Zadok the Priest" with all of its memories of moving occasions. One voice, Opera Queensland's Virgilio Marino, sang a technically brilliant "O Holy Night" and the boy soprano Oscar Medek brought tears to many an eye with a delicate and heart-felt "Pie Jesu" by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

"Never work with animals or children" is advice which Brendan Ross chose to ignore and he got away with it. What seemed like hundreds of tiny children, wearing antlers, came on stage to rock "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer". Perhaps a predictable button to push but on such an evening it was just the right one, and it worked well.

The Queenland Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Simon Kenway) made it clear that they were having fun without in any way compromising their excellent musicianship. Perhaps the highlight of the evening was their "Fanfares and Flourishes" where Christopher Wrench was given his head and allowed to showcase the superb concert organ.

For such an evening to work, it has to flow, seemingly effortlessly, from item to item and Christie Whelan Brown and Simon Burke hosted the show with humour and energy, and sold their own popular songs with all the skill acquired from years at the pinnacle of musical theatre.

Towards the end of the concert came the self-indulgence the singalong. With an orchestra and hundreds of trained singers to lead us, there was little difficulty in getting the packed Concert Hall audience to join. "Joy to the World","Hark the Herald Angels", "Away in a Manger". "O come all ye Fathful" sounded wonderful, and we finished by singing "We wish you all a merry Christmas".
Judging by the way that we were still singing in the car driving home, and even after we had arrived home, QPAC's "Spirit of Christmas" had helped us to celebrate, as it has been doing for thirty years.
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Why? Nostalgia, sheer musicality, and fun
When: 19th and 20th Dewcember
Where: QPAC Concert Hall
Cost: $39
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