In festive voice

  Despite the crisp Winter evening,  there was a very good attendance for Newbury Choral Society's Christmas Concert.
The evening began with the Christmas Overture by Coleridge-Taylor, a 'nicely put-together piece' made up of accessible, almost easy listening melodies and harmonies, including bell chimes, trumpet solos and Christmas Carol melodies.
It was all very christmassy with a festive atmosphere and was well played.

Finzis In terra pax followed. This is a neat and compact jewel of a piece, not easy to learn or perform. The baritone soloist is, in his mind, the onlooker of the Christmas scene in Bethlehem singing words by Robert Bridges, a friend of Finzi's. Peter Snipp sang with a clean, focused tone but his entries were, or loccasion, husky - was he suffering from a cold? The chorus takes over the story with St Luke's description of the shepherds in the fields and here the orchestra overwhelmed the choral society with it's sheer cut and drive. The soprano soloist appears as the angel bringing 'good tidings of great joy'. Lizzie Humphreys sang with ease and a delightful, unforced, pure tone.


Newbury Choral Society Christmas Concert, at St Nicolas Church, on Saturday, December 7

Then the Ulysses orchestra with the leader, George Hlawiczka, taking the solo role, gave a tidy performance of Winter from Vivaldi's Four Seasons.

This was followed by Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on Christmas Carols. Peter Snipp sang This is the Truth beautifully, gently supported by the humming of the choir. The balance was affective, the intonation secure and from this moment on the choir show their real talent. The men were well blended and confident in Come all ye worthy Gentleman and the whole choir was able to show its dynamic range - ff at the climax to pppp at the very end. The diction throughout was excellent.



After the interval was a performance of The Star of Bethlehem by Rheinberger, a romantic work not often heard. From the very beginning with the rising leit motif played by the bassoon there was a feeling of warmth and hope. There was a clear influence of Mendelssohn, Berlioz, Bruckner and Brahms in this work and the choral society came into their own. Well rehearsed by their conductor, Cathal Garvey, it showed enthusiasm alongside technical competence - and everyone seemed to be enjoying singing. In the Adoration of the Wise Men the men must be congratulated for their singing in many parts - very few choral societies could achieve this with such confidence. And the men singing the leit motif was uplifting leading into the final fugal ending which lifted everyone's spirits.
This was an evening of enjoyable music performed well which got better and better as the evening went on. The audience left St Nicolas' church feeling like Christmas was only round the corner.




Reproduced with the kind permission of Newbury Weekly News