Review of 'A Very Merry Christmas'


There are a lot of concerts leading up to the Christmas season in London and so we tend to be a bit picky about what we go to but when we saw the programme for “A Very Merry Christmas” performed at the Barbican Hall we knew we could not resist. Full of modern Christmas music from the 20th century including “Santa Baby”, “All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth”, and “Baby It's Cold Outside” we were hooked. With live music performed by “The Dream Town Orchestra”, conducted by Andrew Cottee who it turns out also arranged much of the music including a new musical accompaniment to the reading of “Twas the Night Before Christmas”, vocals were provided by Joe Stilgoe (who seemed to channel the greats such as Sinatra and Crosby) and Claire Martin.

Stilgoe did an admirable job with his smooth, silky voice but Martin seemed to have issues with trying to bring jazz vocalisation to every piece (not a good idea when no one else on the stage understands where it is going – case in point “Santa Baby” where she was all over the map and despite the conductor's best efforts, was never really in sync with what was being played). Stilgoe did seem to quickly establish a rapour with the audience that Marin never seemed to match and the chemistry was definitely missing between the two, which is a shame as the music was generally very good indeed but even a little extra magic always makes it so much better instead of the forced smiles of two people attempting to make music together.

In any case, the orchestra played magnificently with soloists throughout and a very strong brass section (suiting the music). The musical arrangements were incredible with a number of instrumental montages that gave the singers a break, featuring festive favourites including swing versions of various Christmas carols. The music was definitely toe tapping and engaged all but a few in the audience unfamiliar with more modern Christmas music. To be fair, there were a number of pieces played that were quite unfamiliar to the audience bit it all fitted in perfectly.

At just under two hours, including a 20 minute interval, the concert never really had time to lag with the climax, as might be expected, being the amazing “White Christmas” originally performed by Bing Crosby. All in all, a great way to get into the Christmas spirit.

Rating: “Really good but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2019-12-22

Barbican Centre

Location: London (England)

Address: Silk St, London EC2Y 8DS, UK

Public Transport: TUBE Barbican TUBE Moorgate NRLOGO Moorgate

Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7638 8891


The Barbican Centre is in the middle of the brutalist Barbican housing complex. The centre is a mixed-use arts venue with theatres, cinemas (in the basement), galleries and library as well as dining facility (both cafe, buffet and fine). The facilities are quite good and there is always something going on.

Regardless of how you get here you will probably end up walking through the Barbican so watch for the signs directing you to the Barbican Centre itself as the complex is quite large.