Wednesday, January 18, 2023

The wonderful Glenn Murphy gave the Theatre Royal audience what it wanted prior to Christmas.  

Glenn Murphy certainly knew what Waterford punters wanted for Christmas and his festive concert certainly packed them in. He’s currently training to be a primary teacher and laughs at himself as he gets all teachery when he talks to his audience.  

“Are ye all going to sing along now?” says he with that trademark ,mischievous smile that’s been there since he was a garsún waiting for Santa. And then cocks an open hand behind his teacher’s ear to show you that he’s listening.  

In fact, the whole concert has that “waiting for Santa” feel with a smashing mix of numbers that moves from the openly traditional singalong (AND…dare you not!) despite some really challenging, dramatic pieces like Joni Mitchell’s “River” and “Walking in the air” from Raymond Briggs’s 1978 dark drama in his picture book “The Snowman.” 

Glenn enters singing “I wish it could be Christmas everyday” to huge applause. There’s a rear screen projection of a family sitting-room with a roaring fire while the snow cascades like Siberian confetti outside.  

Along with the two on-stage Christmas trees –anchored by Christmas presents that Glenn doesn’t forget to thank his neighbour for – this is just the picture-perfect setting for “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” followed by “I’ll be home for Christmas”.  

Glenn’s brought guests as well.  

The excellent Julie Power – well remembered from her stage-school performances and now based in Manchester – delivers an enchanting “Once Upon A December” from the Disney favourite Anastasia and then duets with Glenn “In the bleak midwinter” when “frosty wind made moan/Earth stood hard as iron/water like a stone.” 

Waterford’s favourite soprano Vanessa Whelan adds a real touch of class with the seldom-heard Caccini “Ave Maria” and a duet with Glenn for “The Prayer” is a real showstopper. The DLS Choir also proves a big favourite with a Bowie classic.  

A single arrangement for one voice of the Shane McGowan/KirstyMacColl classic “Fairytale of New York” was the only real let down of the night. I have no idea why, with two excellent sopranos as guests, that Glenn chooses not to duet the number.  

“Fairytale” is a bitter-sweet conversation between an emigrant couple whose physical strength was broken on the ‘American Dreamwheel’ where once youthful hopes were crushed by alcoholism and drug addiction.  

Nevertheless, their love for each other remains in the mangled wreckage of recrimination as they reminisce and bicker on Christmas Eve. Fairytale of New York is a true classic and just doesn’t work as a ballad for one voice.  

The highlight of the evening is Glenn’s powerful anti-war anthem, “Christmas 1915”, which was worth the admission price alone. Powerful, poignant and pertinent, the anti-war ballad struck a chord with every member of the audience and the silence at the close of the ballad spoke volumes . 

Musical Director David Hayes is a superb and witty accompanist and his rapport with the singers is a delight. A welcome warm up to the Christmas festivities as Glenn sends a happy audience out into the nippy Christmas night with a Yuletide favourite on their lips. 

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