Review: Deck The Halls at St Mary’s Creative Space

There’s nothing that warms the soul on a winter’s night better than a rousing selection of festive melodies, and that’s exactly what St Mary’s Creative Space presented on Thursday 10th December with Deck The Halls. Described as a ‘selection box’ of winter tunes drawn from the last eight centuries, the evening’s music came from a variety of sources and a collection of uniquely talented individuals.

First to grace the stage were the intriguing Maranella, initially a four piece group of ladies in medieval dress, who inspired images of beautiful birds and glorious nature with their harmonious folk songs and authentic woodwind instruments. For someone whose knowledge of medieval music only extends as far as Greensleeves, I found myself delighted in particular by ‘The King’, an ode to the mighty wren. The ranks of Maranella swelled for the second half of the show, when the two male members (and a whole host of fabulous medieval instruments) joined the troupe. The 13th century hi-jinks were superb, filling the massive space of St Mary’s with the sound of drums, harps and even bagpipes.

The charming Rose Price acted as a sort of compere for the event, introducing her fellow artists with humour and a knowing smile. She also performed some delightful folk ballads which encouraged participants from the enthused audience to sing along, not least the popular theme of Lark Rise to Candleford. Rose also performed duets with various members of the other acts, some extremely fresh and impromptu, but all hugely effective and enjoyable.

James Bazley, the self proclaimed contemporary act of the night, switched up the pace with some rousing acoustic guitar arrangements, including a country and western style reworking of We Three Kings and a beautifully haunting rendition of Silent Night which sent the audience into rapturous applause. James also returned in the second half with a bluesy rock cover of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, as well as one of his own original songs written for the Christmas season. He is a fabulously talented guitarist, and his sets can only be described as a stunning musical event.

After a brief appearance in the first half’s choral performance of The Holly And The Ivy, musical duo John Finnan and Frank Welcomme took to the stage with some wonderful contemporary folk songs. Accompanied by instruments such as the harmonica, accordion and acoustic guitar, these two talented gentlemen roused the crowd into a warm campfire style singalong that would have brought a smile to even the frostiest faces. Christmas In The Trenches is a particular favourite that will be stuck in my head for quite some time.

Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed all the acts of Deck The Halls, my particular favourites were Roy and Mary Clinging, who delivered the perfect balance of historical whimsy and marvelous melody. Possessing superb harmonies and the complex strains of the English concertina, this duo covered all of the historic musical traditions that I was expecting from the night, from wassailing and the wren boys’ carols to the hilarious Victorian broadsides and upbeat Morris dancing tunes. Roy’s fascinating and descriptive anecdotes on the origins and style of each tune really rounded off the imaginative theme that Deck The Halls provided throughout the night.

An absolute triumph for a festive night out.

Find out more about St Mary’s Christmas Events here.

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