Music review: RSNO Christmas Concert, Usher Hall Edinburgh

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When the lead violin is wearing deely boppers, the choir looks like a Christmas tree and the conductor is dressed in a sequinned tail coat, it’s obviously not business as usual.

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“If you’re not feeling Christmassy already,” said Christopher Bell as he took up his baton, “then hopefully you will be by the time you leave.” Suffice to say he achieved his aim.

The Royal Scottish National Orchestra tries to give its audience a taste of two worlds at this annual festive gathering: the same world-class musicianship it delivers the rest of the year, coupled with the kind of join-in shenanigans you’d expect to find at a panto. It’s an almost perfect mix, although a little less hand-clapping and a few more opportunities to sit back and soak up the playing would have been welcome.

The anticipated highlight of the concert proved to be just that – a screening of The Snowman, narrated with gusto by actress Maureen Beattie, with Howard Blake’s score beautifully played by the orchestra, and that most tear-jerking of songs, Walking in the Air, delivered by star in the making Seonaid Eadie. Tissues were called forth.

You can’t end a Christmas concert with tears, however, and in the second half Bell had the whole concert hall on its feet, and using its hands as flippers, for a wonderfully silly version of The Penguin Song. The superb RSNO Chorus was in full voice and so, when called upon, was a very merry audience.