Album Review: The West End goes MAD for Christmas

“I don’t need to ask for much this Christmas”

One of the more worthwhile festive releases this year is also pleasingly one of the more interesting. The Make A Difference Trust brings together the British entertainment community and its audiences to raise funds to support people living with HIV and AIDS and with The West End Goes MAD For Christmas, has brought together a host of new musical theatre champions to offer up a compilation of Christmas songs that offer a fascinating alternative to the age old carols and standards that proliferate at this time of year.

And producers Nikki & Joe Davison at Auburn Jam Records have done a brilliant job in matching composers to performers across the eight songs, curating pre-existing tracks and new, and shining a light on some serious talent. The plaintive simplicity of Stuart Matthew Price’s self-penned ‘This Christmas’ is characteristic of much of his oeuvre of classic songwriting, Gina Beck’s crystalline soprano dances beautifully around the timeless melody of Alexander S Bermange’s ‘Praying For You’ and Nadim Naaman‘s ‘A Soldier’s Christmas’ treads an equally emotive path, sung charmingly by Gerónimo Rauch and Naaman himself.

There’s a more upbeat side to some of the festive offerings too. Anderson and Petty’s ‘Reindeer Wives’ wry humour is well performed by Harriet Thorpe, Christopher Howell and Sophie Isaacs and there’s lovely uplifting sentiment behind Chloe Hart’s ‘I Love Christmas’ (taken from The Bakewell Bake Off). The album’s strong points lie in its bookends though – the soaring joy of Felix Hagan’s ‘Together We Can Make It’ is a perfect match for the openness of Killian Donnelly’s vocal, ably supported by a choir made from the cast of Les Misérables.

And there’s a double whammy of restrained gorgeousness at the record’s end. Alistair Brammer and Gus Gowland’s ‘Home’ builds evocative swells of rousing vocals and brass-inflected music into the unalloyed joy of a place to call home. And Janie Dee weaves delicately but assuredly around the deeply moving story of Tim Connor’s ‘The Little Match Girl’, hauntingly beautiful and a timely reminder that not everyone has a place to call home. The CD is well worth a purchase – either digitally on iTunes or physically via the MADTrust shop (the CD booklet contains lyrics and rehearsal photography).

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