A Night of Voice and Brass: A Review by Jodie Hampel

On Saturday 6th May, The Salvation Army Hall at Chelmsford lived up to its shiny exterior when it hosted a dazzling evening of voice and brass. Excitement and anticipation filled the air as over 100 people bustled into the hall wondering what to expect.

The audience were not the only ones looking forward to hearing and experiencing what was to come, as both performing ensembles had only met and heard each other for the first time that afternoon. Both Unify Community Choir and East of England Coop Band had spent many weeks rehearsing separately in order to prepare a top quality programme. Time, skills and facilities were all donated free of charge after the idea had been born to host a concert to raise money in support of Chelmsford’s local homeless charity: CHESS.

CHESS is the Churches Homeless Emergency Support Scheme based in Chelmsford and they provide support and care as well as facilities to meet the practical needs required by some of  most vulnerable and deprived people. The charity has recently purchased a property that will be used to provide shelter to those who need it most, however, an empty building is not enough on its own. For that reason, CHESS have a £300,000 fundraising target that must be reached in order to transform the new property into a functioning safe haven. The money will provide all the amenities and equipment needed to allow this new hub to become an effective stepping-stone to a more positive pathway for anyone who may find themselves in the position where they have no other option but to use it.  This was the heart of the concert; the aim to contribute towards the rather daunting monetary target was the motivator to create a tantalising musical programme that would fill every seat in the hall with a paying ticket holder.

And so, as the clock struck seven blue and gold jackets marched onto the large platform with their brass instruments and under the baton of Nigel Cooper opened the nights entertainment with Paul Lovatt-Cooper’s Walking with Heroes. The bright opening fanfare intertwined with a lyrical melody that was passed around the band set the tone for an evening of musical contrast underlined with a rich, heartfelt sound.  This was immediately followed with Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, and at this point it became clear to the audience that they were not going to be able to guess what was around the corner, but that they could relax knowing they were in store for a varied and fun-filled evening.

Unify begun their contribution to the evening by performing Gary Barlow and Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Sing. Having been commissioned for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, this song inspired a powerful sense of togetherness and community that nicely portrayed the purpose of the concert, and also the roots and origins of the choir, which is a community based group led by Joanne Schultz.

The musical delights continued as we were treated to pieces taken from almost every known genre, including: film music; extracts from musicals; traditional hymns; reflective meditations; classical works; and contemporary music. A particularly memorable conclusion to the first half was presented by the band, which transported the audience to the rural, mysterious and sometimes scary far north of the country with Philip Sparke’s Hymn of the Highlands.

After some refreshments, and a jovial introduction to the second half that included an entry into the Acrobat Challenge, the musical extravaganza continued. There were just as many oratory treats in the latter part of the evening, all leading up to a joint presentation of Sanctus from Karl Jenkins The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace. The voices of the choir were combined with interjections from the brass and percussion to produce an eerie and ominous beginning that eventually built up to an extraordinary and shocking climax.

The night soon drew to a close but not before the money raised was counted and a cheque for almost £1500 was presented to Lindsay Hurrell from CHESS. An uplifting and enjoyable evening was made worthwhile by everyone who was a part of it and enabled CHESS to come closer to being able to fulfil their mission to the homeless people of Chelmsford City.

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