Hard on the heels of our Opera Gala evening, we’d had only a few weeks to rehearse the Christmas repertoire, and several of the pieces were brand new to me, so I wasn’t without trepidation. But as soon as the concert was launched, with the entire packed-to-the-rafters Town Hall bursting into Hark the herald angels sing, the thrill of creating wonderful music kicked in and I simply enjoyed it from beginning to end. Not that my contribution was flawless, and many thanks to my colleague Sue on the back row of the second sopranos for the surreptitious dig in the ribs when (in my enthusiasm) I launched into A child is born four bars prematurely.
The concert may have followed a tried and tested formula, but the performance direction for Tomorrow shall be my dancing day summed up the evening’s entertainment: ‘Fresh and lively’. With its catchy syncopated rhythms and variable time signatures, that carol wasn’t easy but it was one of my favourites, and our conductor Geoffrey Weaver’s own arrangement of White Christmas was also a wonderful sing. But top of the tree for me was Will Todd’s contemporary carol My Lord has come, three pages of deliciousness.
The audience gave us a lovely warm reception but were equally – if not more – bowled over by the young performers who give this sort of concert such a family feel. Wyre Forest Young Voices, the richness of their purple outfits matching secure harmonies and musicianship potential aplenty, and the diminutive Primary Chords, enchanting in primary colours, creating fun, exciting music that had us itching to join in. And join in everyone did ... the entire Hall mastering the rollicking Hey Father Christmas as a three-part round, with more than a little dancing in the seats. He must have heard. After a little calm was restored with a charming rendition of Away in a Manger from all the children – including small audience members invited to the stage – suddenly there was the man in red with a sack full of sweets ...
Much of the evening’s shenanigans – choral and congregational – was accompanied by the brilliant Holborne Brass Ensemble, who also presented a couple of sets of Christmas music that ranged from the ridiculous to the sublime and back again, culminating in possibly the fastest strictly Russian Trepak in the history of The Nutcracker. They played a starring role too in the fully-participative Twelve days of Christmas; as the verses rolled out and the various sections of the Hall had their progressive moments of fame, we never knew quite what HBE’s collective Partridge would do next!
On the first day after the concert, I expect there are more than a few tired singers of all ages, but no doubt plenty of extra festive spirit too. Merry Christmas!