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Brum choirs getting vocal at Christmas

Written by
Robin Valk

Choirs are the thing this year, with new groups forming every month. Birmingham's got dozens of them, all over town, at all levels - and more and more people are signing up to sing and socialise. Why? Well. it's damn good fun, it feels great to sing, and there's nothing like being part of a team who, together, nail something complicated and musically challenging.

Some of Birmingham's choirs go back over a hundred years; others are brand spanking new. And a veritable host of local choirs will merrily tread the boards as part of special Christmas shows this year.

There's actually hundreds of seasonal choral gigs in the city this year. Here's just a small selection, in no particular order, either of style or skill:

Doing the modern thing

Skylarks is a south Brum pop-up choir. It has no demands for experience, just a love of music. Pobably the most diverse crew in the city, rooted in South Brum muso circles, Skylarks will be doing a benefit gig in York Rd, King's Heath on Saturday December 12 at 5pm, to raise aware for the Off The Scale store.

On the subject of benefit gigs, Birmingham Festival Chorus – which lays claim to being the oldest chorus in Birmingham – has one show this year, Candlelit Carols, in aid of SIFA Fireside, at ARC in Ladywood on December 12.

Doing the big showbiz thing

You want big scale stuff? Really big? Birmingham Community Gospel Choir is one of several stonkingly good Gospel outfits in town, coming from the very sharp (and extremely competitive) Handsworth Gospel scene.

It's also the featured choir at what's billed as the World's Largest Panto: Cinderella, at the Barclaycard Arena from December 19.  

Doing the gigs everywhere thing

Ex Cathedra has been at the top of its game for the best part of 30 years. Sharp and precise, with lots of passion and great focus.

It's also the busiest choral operation in Brum at this time of year. Its repertoire is largely, but not exclusively, early music and baroque, which makes it unique nationally. Its Christmas by Candlelight shows at St Paul's in the Jewellery Quarter – and elsewhere – always sell out.

In fact, this show has become so popular, the choir is taking it on tour. Along with five nights at St Paul's, it'll be heading to other destinations including Shrewsbury and Hagley.

Not satisfied with this burst of activity, the youth division – The Academy of Vocal Music – sings with the Birmingham Royal Ballet's 24 performances over two and a half weeks of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker at the Hippodrome, from November 27-December 13. 

Doing the heavyweight traditional thing 

At the top of the tree, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) Chorus is on a four-day run at Symphony Hall, from December 18-21. You'll get Festive Favourites, and they've roped in the own Youth ChorusChildren's Chorus, CBSO Children’s ChorusCBSO Young Voices and CBSO SO Vocal.

The CBSO is a very connected outfit. Star power comes from compere Alan Titchmarsh, and the CBSO's long-standing choral director, Simon Halsey, who conducts. Details and tickets here.

Still on the carols tip, and not to be outdone, the City of Birmingham Choir has recruited Aled Jones for December 19, preceded by Handel's Messiah with the CBSO on December 4, both at Symphony Hall. Details here

Doing the rocky, beer-drenched thing

Back in the beer tent, local rock heroes The Twang have recruited one of the city's most oddball and inventive choral outfits, Notorious, to join in with their annual Birmingham bash on December 19 at the O2 Academy. Rock n roll craziness will ensue. Expect loud, shouty fun – and that's before the band hits the stage...

Not quite ready for a choir? Maybe you need to get some practice in at Birmingham's new karaoke bar

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