Christmas won’t be the same

Concert that has raised £300K for cancer charities bows out on a high



IT was entirely fitting that Newbury Choral Society should sing for the last of 16 annual Christmas concerts held in the town’s parish church in aid of cancer care.

The choir did us proud, playing a major part in a relaxed and enjoyable evening, their massed voices projecting sound into all corners of the church.

Singing with obvious enjoyment, they have a pleasing balance of voices, and abundance of vocal colour and good diction: the latter always a plus.

This year’s Christmas music featured work by 20th century composers, with the choir giving a joyous, up-tempo start to the concert with a spirited treatment of Rutter’s Jesus Child.
Conducted by musical director Cathal Garvey and accompanied by Steve Bowey, the choir was particularly impressive in a medley of Christmas pieces by Vaughan Williams, with a pleasing murmuration of voices in the middle section.

It was chant-like in Tavener’s A Christmas Round; beautifully controlled in the slow and low O Magnum Mysterium; and gently lilting in Rutter’s Dormi Jesu. Tavener’s Today the Virgin, by contrast, was sung with brio and vocal attack. The choir’s final offering was a medley of popular Christmas songs ‘lighthearted and a little American’, said Garvey by way of introduction.

  Chistmas Concert

Christmas Concert for Newbury and District Cancer Care Trust and Macmillan Cancer Support, at St Nicolas' Church, Newbury, on Saturday, December 2


Two young musicians also performed. Soprano Isabel Irvine was confident and relaxed, singing both unaccompanied and with the choir. With an expressive voice and a clarity and brightness of tone, she has much potential.

Tenor soloist Justin Brown is already established as an opera singer and, in Tavener’s God is With Us, his phrasing and vocal accuracy were counterpoints to the choir’s ensemble singing, with its swelling crescendos and colourful harmonies.

Three speakers read Christmas themed pieces. Professor Suzanna Rose took some ‘Christmas fiction’, reading from Elizabeth Goudge’s City of Bells, painting a vivid picture of the Bishop’s Palace at Christmas, log fires at either end of the gallery.

Professor Sir John Cunningham read an abridged version of a BBC Radio 4 ‘Thought for the day by Lucy Winkett, rector of St James, Piccadilly; a meditation on memorials, ‘where the dangers of hubris are clear’.

Back for the third year was actor Adam Kotz, who brought humour and levity to his vernacular readings: three short extracts from 20th century school inspector Gervase Phinn’s memories of Yorkshire schools. One small lad insisted the baby Jesus was called Wayne – on account of the carol A Wayne in a Manger. Of course. In a Christmas poem, another small child refused all parts except the star (he’ll go far) and we loved young Dominic (he of a question a minute and a lot of half-baked ideas).

The inspector finally threw in the towel and let Dominic tell the Christmas story – truncated in his own inimitable way.

One of the nicest features of the concert was the singing of much-loved carols – how potent they are – with Garvey simultaneously conducting both choir and audience.

These annual concerts have raised more than £300,000 for cancer charities and, although this was the last in this format, the charities are planning a joint future event.





Reproduced with the kind permission of Newbury Weekly News