Pop goes Christmas, or should that be Christmas goes Pop? A line up of quality folk and jazz musicians ought to promise a great evenings entertainment, and tales of how fantastic the previous evening's gig had been (both nights sold out) had me well up for a terrific night. It was a little disappointing when the first couple of carols didn't really fire, tepid input from the band and dull arrangements, but I thought "Oh well, give them, and the audience, a chance, they're just warming up", but they were followed by what can only be described as one of the worst versions of Jingle Bells (for crying out loud Jingle Bells!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) I have ever had the misfortune to hear, I've heard better issuing from tinny speakers in pound shops. The rest of the first half never recovered from that nadir to the extent that MrsRiverdale and I discussed leaving in the interval. Sickly, schmaltzy number followed sickly, schmaltzy number, with occasional readings that were supposed to tug at your heartstrings, and open your purses, or had some pretence of comedy on the theme of those who do or don't 'do' Christmas shopping. It was awful. Stories were told as if they had happened within the last few months, stories I'd first heard 50 years ago when a child. The arrangements and delivery of the songs seemed intent on crushing any of the beauty and excitement of the songs into one interminable string of pap. There were occasional flashes of light in the gloom; Chris Leslie can play a fine fiddle and Chris While has a good, jazz voice, but the opportunity for them to show these talents off were few and far between.
We did stay for the second half, and it was better, but I'm still not sure if that impression was solely down to the improvement on the first half or whether there actually was merit in it. I suppose the highlight was a halfways interesting take on 'God Rest You Merry Gentlemen' set to a Brubeck style tune (at least they didn't sing 'Happy Birthday' to him but I think it was a touch and go thing), but by the time they'd reached their encore they were back in the depths with a cod rendering of Mele Kalikimaka, they need to take lessons from The Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain before they attempt such a thing again.
I think we were in a minority of two in our feelings though, the rest of the audience seemed well pleased, although the dire warnings about how excited they got, and apologies in advance for their exuberance, seemed misplaced, Ok, there was a bit of stamping, a couple of joining in of choruses (Oh my god, Jingle Bells again) and a bit of banter, but if this is what passes as excitement in areas of South Somerset, and the claim was made that Christmas hasn't started 'til the 'aggies' had been in town, they must have pretty miserable Christmasses.
Oh, and they didn't play 'I Saw Three Ships'.