dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
Ruby the reindeer and flashing jacket
It's become a tradition for singer Kate Rusby to bring in the festive cheer with her Christmas tour of songs and carols. But they are not carols as most of us know them.
Hailing from a musical family in Barnsley, Rusby was brought up in the tradition of Yorskhire pubs which hold 'sings', in which people join together to sing carols and drink a pint. Many of these are well-known carols but to different tunes or with additional lyrics which never made it into the hymn books – and yet they remain a rich source of historical music.
Performing at Birmingham Town Hall along with a band and brass quintet, Rusby treated her audience to a string of these festive songs. These included Sunny Bank, a traditional version of 'I Saw Three Ships', there's the Little Bilberry tune for 'Hark the Herald Angels Sing' and no less than three different versions of 'While Shepherds Watched'.
Rusby is the kind of visitor you would want at your Christmas party because not only can she sing these carols with real enthusiasm, she's also more than ready to share the story behind them. Introducing every single song, she explains a bit of its history and, often, why she loves them so much.
Furthermore, she frequently entertains the audience with asides about Ruby the reindeer which travels on tour, her family and dogs, her introduction to music and tales from the tour. It's hard not to feel that she has a genuine affection for her audience and is keen just to have a chat.
There was also a touch of audience participation as Rusby's tour manager filmed the audience singing a line which can be included in her Facebook 14 Days of Christmas. Hilariously this was interrupted by a call from a vehicle response driver en route to repair their tour van!
Alongside other Christmas classics, including 'Deck the Halls', 'O Little Town of Bethlehem' and 'Joy to the World'. Rusby also performed some of her own songs including 'The Frost is All Over', which she explained was inspired by walking her dogs on Christmas morning, and 'Let the Bells Ring' which was sparked by a New Year's vigil in Cornwall.
Rusby always adds a touch of comedy Christmas to the show and this year she appeared in the encore in a white fake fur gilet which she then proceeded to light up so it flashed in the dark ensuring a multi-coloured finale. There is a reason Kate Rusby at Christmas has become a tradition – it's like a glass of mulled wine or a heated mince pie, it leaves you warm, fuzzy and festive.