If the frost was trying to settle around Harrogate’s Church Square on Saturday night then it must have given up, as the usually quiet Stray resonated to heart-warming vocal harmonies, quirky ukulele strumming and the appreciative foot-tapping of a thoroughly entertained audience.
On a cold December night, the perfect antidote to the onset of winter was a self-styled ‘seasonal shindig’, featuring Harrogate ladies singing collective, Straybirds, and collaborators in musical mischief The Grand Old Ukes of York. The cause – Christ Church’s ‘Bikes for Tanzania’ appeal.
The three-hour performance, beginning with an accomplished set by Straybirds before the assembled ukuleles took stage, entertained and uplifted, drew laughter and brought on tears. The chemistry between the choir and the Ukes was clear and added to the informal, seasonal fun. That’s not to say the night was anything like amateur, though. Far from it.
Straybirds’ songs ranged from gospel to dance, experimental (a haunting ‘waterfall’ version of Silent Night) to modern classic ballads. There were solos in abundance showcasing the individual talent on stage but always returning to the collective’s beautifully arranged harmonies.
The piano accompaniment complimented proceedings perfectly, with the energetic direction of conductor Neil Balfour keeping things impeccably timed and pitch perfect. Hard to think that this was pretty much Straybirds’ maiden performance.
The Ukes followed with their particular and successful blend of tongue-in-cheek covers and creative interpretations of classic rock numbers interspersed with their signature deadpan segues and audience participation.
A raucous rendition of ‘Fat Bottom Girls’ in happy collaboration with the Straybirds ladies finished the night right on theme – seriously good music to make you smile and maybe even shed a tear or two.
Review by Phil Harvey.