I was recently given the privilege to cover the annual Christmas concert for the two Elmbridge choirs. This was a spectacular event that took place in Christ Church in Woking. The two Elmbridge choirs are very well known in my home area. The evening boasted a full house of 300 who enjoyed seasonal music from the superb 90-voice Elmbridge Ladies Choir and the marvellously entertaining 130-strong Elmbridge Choir, led by Cliff van Tonder – Founder and CEO of Surrey Music.
Surrey Music was founded in 2005. The founder’s drive, ambition and exuberance is well recognised, not only to the members of Surrey Music but to the local community as a whole. Over the years more than £175,000 has been raised for charitable causes and many hundreds of people have benefited from his commitment. Cliff has recently been honoured with a British Citizen Award for services to the Arts.
Chase Adams is an up and coming singer/songwriter who hails from Brighton. Chase has been performing for around 12 years and lists his influences as Bruno Mars, Adam Lambert, Maroon 5 and Ed Sheeran. Elite Elton is the UK’s premier Elton John tribute act. Kevin Clay (‘Elton’) is a very close lookalike who performs a huge repertoire of Sir Elton John’s songs. He took to the stage in typically flamboyant fashion and at the end had everyone on their feet for Crocodile Rock.
The concert was opened by Chase Adams who gave a very soulful performance, delighting the audience with his superb voice. Following this was the spectacular entrance of the 90 strong Elmbridge Ladies Choir to the tune of ‘Here Come The Girls’, led by their Musical Director Christine Parker. Their repertoire included a varied programme, from traditional carols to an African lullaby with percussion accompaniment.
It was then the turn of Kevin Clay and his alter-persona of Elite Elton. His entrance was even more spectacular as he was wearing a sequined jacket and topped with a straw boater. On stage there was a baby grand piano surrounded by the choir. He performed the majority of Sir Elton John’s best known songs of which there are many and returned later as an older Elton with a sparkly purple shirt.
The highlight of the evening was the 130 strong Elmbridge mixed choir. Their repertoire included traditional carols and some songs featured in Frozen and The Greatest Showman. Cliff van Tonder was absolutely mesmerising as their conductor and knew how to get the best out of all the performers.
The focus of the evening was also on supporting the local community and charitable causes. Stephen Ireland, CEO of Pride in Surrey, gave an rousing speech promoting acceptance and tolerance of the LGBTQ+ community and revealed plans for the very first Pride festival in Woking next August. Cath Stamper, CEO of York Road Project, gave a very positive speech about the work of the charity which supports those experiencing homelessness in Woking. She thanked the choirs for their generous gifts and donations which had been delivered to the charity’s Day Centre. The Mayor of Woking, Cllr Will Forster, whose chosen charity is York Road Project, reinforced this message and urged the audience to contribute to a collection which raised a further £1,639, including £600 from Surrey Music.
The challenge with an event such as this is always the lighting. I had been at the same venue a couple of weeks earlier for a fashion show and the lighting was very poor. This time things were much better because professional lighting had been brought in, giving the church a real seasonal ambience. As this was such a large event, I enlisted the services of my partner Cathy to give a different viewpoint by taking close ups with my trusty f2.8 70 -200 telephoto. Cathy excelled and by the end of the evening had mastered using this quite heavy lens attached to a carbon fibre mono-pod and managed not to take out any of the audience whilst scurrying around the venue.
For me, I was trialling my latest purchase of a replacement 24-105 mm mark II lens which performed admirably. There was much scurrying about as we vied to get the best positions for photography and to get the variety of shots required. My favourite location turned out to be an overview from the technicians gallery.
The evening was very hard work but equally rewarding. It is always a pleasure to cover such events, especially when they are helping a number of very good causes.
© Andrew Boschier Photography