ADVANCE notice came from the suitably named Joy that this year’s Kate Rusby Christmas show was “probably the best so far”.

No “probably” about it! This IS the best so far, marking a decade of winter concerts built originally around the Barnsley folk singer’s decision to take South Yorkshire carols, sung lustily in pubs on each weekend from Armistice Day to New Year’s Day, into concert settings.

Banned by the Victorians from churches for being too jolly, the 30 variations on While Shepherds Watched and many more besides give Kate plenty to go at, and piece by piece, year by year, the shows have expanded.

They now incorporate Rusby’s sparkling dress, black this year with silver stars; Ruby, the fairy-lit reindeer, with angelic wings freshly added; a starry, starry night sky of lights; the five brass boys and Rusby’s regular folk band, and a newly released fourth Christmas album, Angels & Men, that makes set selection all the more difficult.

Consequently such Rusby Christmas originals as Home and The Frost Is All Over miss out, but her first New Year song, Let The Bells Ring, is a highlight, along with three, yes three, versions of While Shepherds, the last taxing Kate to rehearse the chorus to distinguish it from the rest!

The arrangements are the boldest and brightest yet, Duncan Lyall’s Moog now vital, Josh Clark’s percussion and programming an unexpected new addition; Damien O’Kane’s guitar and banjo a joy; Rusby’s voice so midnight clear. How better to finish than all the band in Nativity Play costumes, Rusby in angel wings while her shepherds watched.