Carols at the Royal Albert Hall is a yearly tradition and highlight, mixing traditional classics, pop-rock numbers and audience sing-alongs. This year offers another hallucinogenic musical spectacular, with the enormous Royal Philharmonic Orchestra joined by the Royal Choral Society and the National Youth Choirs, as well as brass from the British Imperial Military Band.
The star of the show is undoubtedly the Royal Philharmonic, conducted with panache by Richard Cooke. One of the highlights is the instrumental overture: Paul Campbell’s “A Christmas Carol Fantasy”, featuring Richard Pearce on the Royal Albert Hall’s mighty 9,999-pipe organ known as “the voice of Jupiter”. They also get to show off with other instrumental picks like the waltz from Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty (1890) and John Williams’ arrangement of “Carol of the Bells” from Home Alone (1990).
But there is nothing like a 6,000-strong audience aged zero to a hundred, belting out beloved Christmas carols. A fully-interactive “12 Days of Christmas” goes down a storm, expertly taught by presenter Greg Beardsell. Throughout, Beardsell’s hilarious and educational commentary enhances the entire programme.
Celebrated British vocalist Vanessa Haynes brings her charisma and inimitable smoky tone to pop-rock classics, including a wild “All I Want for Christmas Is You”. Due to the size of the venue, there are some slipped lines and out-of-sync moments, most notably from the National Youth Choirs. But these seem to melt away like snowflakes in a programme that dazzles as much as the lights on the Christmas trees.
Playing at London’s Royal Albert Hall 17 – 24 December 2022.