Christmas 2023 - Ceremony of Carols


Christmas Concert 2023

Ceremony of Carols
Queen Anne’s School, Caversham

Review by Terry Grourke


South Chiltern Choral Society, led by new conductor Helen Bilkey, began with two traditional carols, Christmas is Coming and Ding Dong! Merrily on High.

The 60-strong choir was then joined by more than 40 children from the Hill Primary School, led by Victoria Alexander, to sing Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow and When Children Rule The World.  The pupils, all dressed in choir-branded jumpers, made an impressive sight and even more impressive sound.

Next was Benjamin Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols, which was written in 1943. This featured a selection of 15th and 16th century English poems which enabled the society to demonstrate a range of musical styles. Soprano soloists Molly Skeil and Victoria Alexander excelled with their sweet, melodic voices.  About halfway through the 11 sections, there was a superb harp solo with sweeping glissando movements performed by Helena Pizura, a sixth form student at the Abbey School in Reading.

Before the interval the audience was giv
en the opportunity to join in with O Little Town of Bethlehem and then at the start of thesecond half with O Come, All Ye Faithful.

John Rutter’s arrangement of the Twelve Days of Christmas gave a new twist on this classic carol with an interesting accompaniment by pianist Ian Westley. There was then a real Christmas treat by the Hill children returning to perform Winter Wonderland, complete with actions. The sheer joy experienced by both children and adults shone through Rutter’s arrangement of Star Carol, which was followed by We Wish You a Merry Christmas. 

The performance ended with the audience and choirs enthusiastically singing Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.

A collection raised more than £1,000 for Home Start, a local charity which provides support for struggling families with at least one child under five.

Terry Grourk

The Hill photo, courtesy of The Henley Standard


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