BBC SSO, City Halls, Glasgow

Alison Kerr

four stars

CHRISTMAS wouldn’t be complete without the BBC SSO’s annual trip to the movies. For many Glaswegians, the orchestra’s family concert of favourite film themes has become as much a part of Christmas as watching the movies themselves on TV. Sunday afternoon’s programme was rich in music from films that many of us probably first saw on television at Christmas when we were growing up, among them Casablanca, Citizen Kane and Gone With the Wind.

Opening with an exhilarating rendition of John Williams’s Star Wars main title theme, the dynamic BBC SSO, conducted by Clark Rundell, dished up a variety box of delights which included an utterly swoonsome arrangement of As Time Goes By (from Casablanca), Howard Shore’s beautiful, Celtic-tinged The Lord of the Rings suite, Danny Elfman’s quirky and dark Spiderman theme and Hans Zimmer’s majestic and serene Oogway’s Theme, from Kung-Fu Panda.

If Jamie MacDougall, who presented with his usual panache and sense of fun, seemed a little out of his comfort zone singing the swinging The Bare Necessities (well, Phil Harris’s iconic Baloo is rather a hard act to follow), then he was more than rewarded with two gorgeous ballads which were ideal for him: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s gorgeous If I Loved You and Bernstein’s Maria, both of which were exquisitely sung and extremely moving.

While the highlight of the advertised programme was a whistle-stop whiz through the wonderful Wizard of Oz score, written by Harold Arlen, the overall standout was an unadvertised and gloriously executed performance of Dmitri Tiomkin’s suite from the greatest Christmas movie of them all – It’s a Wonderful Life. As Jimmy Stewart very nearly said: “Merry Christmas you wonderful ol’ BBC SSO!”