Christmas comes but once a year and when it does it’s accompanied by much-loved rituals and marked by familiar personal landmarks in the yuletide calendar. For some, the season starts with the first sighting of a Christmas advert on the telly, which these days is usually mid-October, while for others Christmas only really begins on Christmas Eve with of A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, broadcast live to the world by the BBC from the Chapel of Kings College Cambridge since 1928.
We each of us have a myriad of little markers that let us know the season of goodwill is nigh. For me the excitement begins the first time I hear Slade’s Merry Christmas playing in the Co-op, and builds steadily in the weeks preceding the big day itself. I cheer at the first showing of the Muppets Christmas Carol; I purchase tasty but ruinously expensive cheese at the Christmas Markets in Manchester; and always, always I croon with MacGowan and the boys from the NYPD choir, dreaming of loved ones past and present.
But Christmas really starts with an annual trip (or two) to see Manchester’s Hallé orchestra, whose programme this year is packed with a staggering 20 different performances, scheduled throughout the holiday period. And if you’ll forgive the use of this particular old Christmas chestnut, there really is something for everyone, ranging from elegantly performed traditional carols, a good old Christmas sing-along, and some festive shape-throwing at a night of Disco Inferno.
The Hallé boys and girls are undoubtedly among the hardest working elves in the whole city at Christmas time, and as such they’ve long since carved out a place in Manchester’s Christmas calendar. But it must be said that this success has come about as a result of the quality of their festive fair, and the range of musical experiences on offer.
Stephen Bell (associate conductor, Hallé Pops) is skippering the orchestra for many of the performances. “The Hallé has some really exciting Christmas concerts with some fantastic opportunities for the audience to get involved, especially in our sing-along and carol concerts,” he says. “With our traditional performance of Messiah, a complete concert performance of The Nutcracker, some wonderful concerts for families and some really fun concerts such as Disco Inferno, we hope there is something for everybody.”
A glance at the events calendar for the Christmas/New Year period bears this out. Along with the carol concerts and sing-alongs there’s also a family Christmas children’s workshop and Family Concert, An Evening with 007 and screenings of The Snowman with a live, full orchestral accompaniment to tempt you. There’s even A Viennese Celebration on offer to welcome in the New Year.
Now, if I sound like I’m proselytising here it’s because I am. The Hallé is a cultural gem and it’s been a part of Manchester for more than a century and a half. Each year it really does put a big festive smile on the faces of people from across the North West of England, including mine. So, whether you want to don your Santa hat and sing your heart out, or slap on your disco pants and boogie with the best of them, have a click and see how the Hallé can help make your Christmas that bit more special. I promise you won’t regret it.
Box office: 0161 907 9000
Book online: www.halle.co.uk