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PETE MORTON, EMILY SANDERS & CHRIS PARKINSON: THE MAGICAL CHRISTMAS TREE - North Muskham Village Hall, Notts - 11 December 2018

When does your Christmas begin? Perhaps it’s a visit to a panto or seeing the John Lewis TV advert? For some it’s singing carols in pubs or morris dancing at a Christmas market, but for the past 10 years or so it may have been the visit of The Magical Christmas Tree.

The 2018 tour began with a fundraising concert for a local charity, the Newark Emmaus Trust, which helps young homeless people, raising £630 for their work and raising its profile in the community.

Pete Morton’s knack of getting people to sing along began immediately with the opening song, Gilbert O’Sullivan’s I’m Not Dreaming Of A White Christmas, repeating the chorus until everyone was joining in. The magical Christmas tree appeared, but when Pete couldn’t turn the lights on, Chris Parkinson played a few bars of Chopin’s Funeral March.

What makes this tree magical? Well, amongst its decorations it has small scrolls tied to it that are picked by members of the audience. These have instructions for the three artists to perform various activities that wouldn’t usually be associated with them. These included an ‘eccentric’ dance by Pete with Emily Sanders, Pete dancing while doing a handstand for a ‘dance from down under’, an open-shirted Chris with shades and bling disco dancing to Staying Alive, singing the carol While Shepherds Watched to the tune of the Laughing Policeman, Chris’s wonderful club singer impression as ‘Elvis’s love child’, an all-action version of The Twelve Days Of Christmas and a Lincolnshire broom dance by Pete.

Mixed in with all this unexpected material is more usual seasonal fare such as The Cherry Tree Carol, The Wexford Carol and In The Bleak Midwinter, as well as less usual fare with The House Of The Rising Sun to the tune of O Little Town Of Bethlehem (and vice versa). And it wouldn’t be a concert with Pete Morton without a bit of a political statement, so we heard Pete’s Windrush Boat Song and Grenfell Carol.

This was a thoroughly entertaining evening from three very talented musicians and singers, greatly enjoyed and appreciated by the audience for whom Christmas started here.

Mike Everett