What an Encore!

The 2024 Petersfield Musical Festival opened on 15th March with a lively evening of popular music that brought the singers of Encore Choirs and Legends to the festival for the first time. In her opening remarks, Festival chair Pamela Buckley welcomed Petersfield’s Mayor, J C Crissey and all the audience and performers, and invited everyone to contribute afterwards to this year’s four Mayor’s Charities.

Enthusiastically directed by Josh Robinson, Encore Choirs run groups which joined forces in a programme that ranged from classic songs to musical theatre and film. Launching the seven songs in their first set with ‘Into the Unknown’ from Frozen, the choir set the tone for the evening, putting across the big moments of the song with an impressive sound and clear diction. The small live band, comprising Alfie Hickson and Harry Wells on keyboards, Pete Relph, guitar, Adam Gregory, bass and Joe Peall, drums, gave excellent support, helped by sensitive sound-mixing from the technical team. Tactful in the quieter sections, and letting themselves go more at the climaxes, the band never overwhelmed the voices. Gaining in confidence and relaxing into the mood as the evening progressed, the choir finished the set with confident performances of ‘You Will Be Found’ and ‘Green, Green Grass’, with the audience clapping along to the choruses.

Legends are a vocal trio who bring tremendous energy and a polished presentation to their performances of boy band hits. The three members of the trio – Simon Crates, Elliot Port and Jon Cole – are all equally at home as soloists or singing in harmony, and rang the changes throughout their two sets, switching positions to give centre stage to the soloist in each song. Simon Crates opened their first set as soloist in ‘Show Me The Meaning’, handing over to Elliot Port for ‘As Long as You Love Me’ and ‘Signed, Sealed Delivered’ and taking centre stage again for an emotional performance of ‘Against All Odds’.

After the interval, Legends kicked off the second half with a more up-beat set, starting with Jon Cole as the extrovert soloist in ‘I Want You Back’. Choir and audience all joined in with the actions for ‘Blame It On The Boogie’, and enjoyed the crescendo of energy through the remaining songs, with strong harmony in ‘Tell My Why’, special lighting effects in ‘Relight My Fire’ and a big finale in ‘Heaven is A Place On Earth’.

Encore Choir’s second set starting with Josh Robinson appearing in the Phantom’s famous mask to conduct a medley from Phantom of the Opera. This was at first challenging for the choir’s small tenor section, but the strong ending brought a burst of appreciation from the audience. The choir obviously enjoyed ‘Son of A Preacher Man’, with confident harmony over the lively backing of bass and drums. The variety continued, with ‘Day By Day’ at first thoughtful, then vibrant and rhythmic, ‘Fix You’ slow and expressive, coloured by guitars and keyboards, and ‘Come What May’ completing the programme with strong choral singing. After a rousing encore of ‘Viva La Vida’ the applause from all sides showed how much the choir enjoy working with their director and how much the audience had enjoyed the evening.

Sarah Hard

Photo credit: Kim Gregory