Sussex did indeed sing Christmas loud and clear when the BFC virtual Christmas concert went live on 23 December, streaming into 850+ homes to an estimated audience of 2,500. The concert was enjoyed in Canada, America, NZ, Spain, France, Ireland and extensively throughout UK, especially Sussex!

From the opening solo verse of Once in Royal David’s City, sung so beautifully by Minnie Wood, a member of the Brighton Festival Youth Choir, to the closing heartfelt rendition of We Wish You a Merry Christmas, it was a wonderfully celebratory festive concert.

Some other standout moments included Morgan Pochin’s evocative new arrangement of In the Bleak Mid-Winter and, of course, the virtual choir performances of O Come All Ye Faithful and Winter Wonderland to which over 300 singers contributed by sending in videos of themselves prior to the day. The spirited accompaniment of the RPO throughout was, as ever, the icing on the cake. Choral and orchestral forces were expertly directed by James Morgan who was also a most excellent Master of Ceremonies. And it wouldn’t be a BFC Christmas Concert without mentioning the jokes, which were of the usual cringe-worthy standard contributed by some lovely giggly young people in Christmas jumpers in front of their Christmas trees!

How did it all come together?

BFC had rehearsed both virtually and 3m apart in an increasingly cold but magnificent All Saints Church, Hove in the weeks leading up to the concert, so to be together in the Brighton Dome to record the concert was a wonderful life-enhancing moment. Covid-secure protocols still had to be obeyed but we quickly got used to being spread out throughout the auditorium with the Youth Choir upstairs. It was so great to be singing together again!

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And the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra brought the music to life with fantastic arrangements of the carols and traditional festive orchestral pieces such as Sleigh Ride.

But life as a musician in the current circumstances with no social mingling and no ready access to cafes is very different!

Enthusiastic leadership from James (Morgan) and Juliette (Pochin) drove us all forward and Juliette’s vivacious solos were warmly applauded.

And what was the audience reaction?

  • Truly heart-warming and uplifting
  • Impressive quality of singing from the Chorus
  • The intricate interweaving of the mix of music was awe inspiring without being overly “difficult”.
  • It really got the Christmas atmosphere going in our home, I got a bit emotional!
  • That was delightful! Thank you for a lovely start to Christmas bubbles, wotsits and gorgeous carols!
  • It lifted my spirit and cheered my soul.
  • Congratulations for your community inclusion, that was joyful, especially the children and jokes
  • It’s kept me cheery during my solo Christmas.
  • A great investment in the ‘new normal’ of virtual concerts!

Yes of course we would rather have been singing live but there were so many positives …

  • Welcoming nearly 300 people to our virtual choirs
  • Making new contacts with Sussex schools, choirs, care homes and social support groups, developing relationships for the future.
  • The opportunity to work again with our wonderful friends at the RPO
  • Encouraging a new audience via our extensive social media campaign reaching over 66,000 people
  • Achieving 18% increase in our online Facebook community (of which 56% are under 55 years of age)
  • Providing a great chance for BFC members’ far-flung family and friends to come to a BFC concert
  • Thanking over 200 new donors

And MAKING MUSIC as live we could!
Here’s to Christmas 2021! Whatever it brings, Sussex is ready to Sing Christmas!