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Musicals by Candlelight at the Actors Church, Covent Garden

Musical theatre showtunes are not designed to be performed by a string quartet, at least not on its own, with no vocal accompaniment. Some context is provided in the form of brief introductions, much of the content, I thought, wasn’t strictly required for the knowledgeable audience at the performance I attended: these were not people that needed the likes of Les Misérables and The Phantom of the Opera explained to them. It was, nonetheless, nice to hear it. It established a good rapport with the audience and fostered inclusivity: there probably were a few people there who were dragged along (hopefully metaphorically) to this concert who might not necessarily be fans or followers, or whatever the correct word is – aficionados, perhaps – of musical theatre.

Musicals by Candlelight

There’s nothing that comes to mind to compare Musicals by Candlelight to, so while the showtunes are familiar, the arrangements aren’t. It could be argued that a couple of more obscure choices could have been made, but they never were going to please everyone (least of all themselves: in a gleeful admission, it was explained how some ruthless decisions had to be made as to what to leave out in a concert lasting just one hour).

The instrumentals-only approach did, on occasion, make me feel as though I was on hold at a large company’s customer contact centre. But, of course, the interruption from a semi-disembodied voice thanking me for my patience and reiterating they will be with me ‘shortly’ never came, and after a while, I started to get used to the string quartet’s sounds. There is considerable versatility with two violins, a viola and a cello, in a programme that eventually ranged from West Side Story to Moulin Rouge. And this was probably the first time I’ve heard tunes made famous by ABBA played by a string quartet, in church.

Musical experiences can be quite intense, and to hear these tunes performed in a significantly more sedate setting is best suited to those who like to see and hear something different, or at least well-known showtunes presented in a substantially different way. There are no flashing or moving lights, no stage revolves, and no props – just the music. It’s quite a bold move to rely solely on a string quartet, but a good variety of upbeat and majestic melodies ensures there’s something for almost everyone.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Discover this new series of serene candlelight concerts in London at an iconic venue. Each concert by candlelight showcases the songs of the world’s greatest musical theatre composers played by a candlelight quartet of string musicians. Featuring an exceptional repertoire of songs from shows such as Les Miserables, West Side Story, and My Fair Lady, Musicals by Candlelight is the perfect way to unwind in an intimate setting with an evening of the utmost tranquility and harmony accompanied by candlelight music.

Musicals By Candlelight
The Actors Church, London

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