Christmas Concert 2015 – Review

Review by John Evans – Published by the Henley Standard

South Chiltern Choral Society – Christmas Concert, 12 and 13 December 2015

‘Warm glow’ suffuses choral society’s school concert

LAST weekend was the now traditional Christmas concert performed by the South Chiltern Choral Society at Chiltern Edge School.

The choir sang with a backdrop of beautiful red lights with twinkling stars and so gave a warm glow to the proceedings.

This concert is always well attended by an audience that wants to sing and ample opportunity was given in the second half with five well known favourite carols.

However, there was a treat in store with two compilations of Christmas music followed by another delicacy — wine and mince pies — in the interval.

The Christmas compilation has become a popular choice for composers as it draws listeners into their music as they recognise the old songs. Sometimes the selection seems a bit arbitrary with just a few chords between the old standards. However, there are many others which stand the test of time.

Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on Christmas Carols is well constructed and moves easily from one carol to another with the themes being repeated by various parts of the choir including a baritone soloist. The choir sang this well and the piece provided a fitting end to the first half. The concert had also featured an extract from Benjamin Britten’s A Boy was Born and it would have been good to hear more of this work, but instead they preformed A Winter’s Night by Cecilia McDowall who, interestingly, had used In Dulci Jubilo which was also featured in the Vaughan Williams piece.

This compilation was performed well and there was a very clever finale which merged two carols together. On balance, however, I preferred the Vaughan Williams compilation.

One particularly outstanding part of the concert was a piano solo as an interlude between the choral works. Firstly, The Holy Boy by John Ireland and then later on O Holy Night by Adolphe Adam, emphasising the point that sometimes a tune is best sung or played simply. A great performance by Ian Westley.

Inevitably, we moved from the sacred into the populist and were treated to Winter Wonderland and The Christmas Song — neither of them favourites of mine but probably best turned into an arrangement, as was done at this concert. Some tunes are best masked by clever chords.

A well-constructed programme by musical director Paul Burke, sending the audience out happy into the damp and misty December air, ready to start their Christmas celebrations.

Next year the really serious stuff starts with the Brahms Requiem which they will perform in March at the University of Reading’s Great Hall. Should be good.

 

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