Christmas 2013

Christmas poster 2013


Saturday 14 December at 7.30pm and Sunday 15 December at 2pm.


Youtube – Born in Bethlehem: Gwyn played a lovely recording of SCCS singing these nine songs at the rehearsal.  You can listen to these nine songs again on youtube from the 1997 SCCS recording.

Photographs of this concert can be seen here

It was a weekend of jazz: Chris Barber Big Band at Goring on Friday, a selection of Miles Davis CDs on Saturday and a jazzed-up version of the Christmas story on Sunday. Perfect!  Actually, there was more to the concert than the jazz but that was the highlight for me.

South Chiltern Choral Society’s festive concert is normally a mixture of audience carols, various Christmas music and contributions from a local school. It heralds the start of Christmas in Sonning Common and although there was a whole week to go it felt right.  The junior choir this year was from Sonning Common Primary School. They sang three modern pieces chosen by the children, and written by Mark and Helen Johnson. I love modern music and these pieces were vibrant, joyous and sounded really good fun to sing. You could see that the children enjoyed singing them.

They also joined in with one of the major pieces, On Christmas Night by Bob Chilcott. This is an amalgam of carol melodies set in different styles and moods. I wasn’t that impressed with the Chilcott piece as I think it spoiled the original carol tunes. Having said that, there were some good parts to this piece, particularly a solo by Susie Downer from the choir. There was also a tribute to John Tavener with a performance of his setting of The Lamb with words by William Blake and the choir did justice to this really quite difficult piece.

But the highlight for me was the jazzy piece of Christmas music Born In Bethlehem, a collection of spirituals arranged for mixed choir by musical director Gwyn Arch in 1997. With the addition of piano, bass, drums and a fantastic soloist, Aneesa Chaudry, this was a real gem. What’s more, there were some more jazzy carols played and sung by this quartet as the audience were taking their seats at the beginning of the concert. And Aneesa would have carried on at the end if time hadn’t run out!  She has a big voice and uses it to good effect. In the ballad Sweet Little Jesus Boy she put over a really stunning performance and in the other two solos, she elevated the sound to something really quite beautiful. Credit must also go to Gwyn Arch for his musical direction. This was an impressive piece of music and was really enjoyed by the capacity audience.

John Evans

Published in the Henley Standard. 23 December 2013


A CONDUCTOR took charge of his 48th consecutive Christmas concert with the South Chiltern Choral Society.  Gywn Arch, 82, led the 70-strong adult choir for the concert at Chiltern Edge School in Sonning Common, which was attended by more than 400 people over two days.  The choir sang Born In Bethlehem and On Christmas Night and a selection of carols and were joined by children from the village primary School, aged seven to nine, who also sang carols by themselves.  Jazz trio Jenny Carr, Genevieve Curd and Mike Jeffries also performed.  During the interval, guests were offered a free glass of wine and a mince pie. The profits from ticket sales will go towards sheet music for the society. A collection raised more than £1,600 for homeless charity Launchpad.  Mr Arch, from Sonning Common, said: “I often ask myself how I keep going but I guess I enjoy it. I haven’t got the energy I once had but I can still motivate the choir.”  David Cottam, chairman of the society, said: “Gwyn is quite a character. He loves his music and singing and he inspires all of us.” Teacher Paula Humm, who runs the primary school choir, said: “It’s the first time I’ve taken this group of children to a concert outside school and they did fantastically well.  “They had a lovely time and are looking forward to next year’s event, when they will be singing with the Young Voices choir.”

Published in the Henley Standard. 30 December 2013

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