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"Christmas is Coming" Concert

by Jenny Hardy – 5th December 2022
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The Witchert Chorale presented their 'Christmas is Coming' concert to a packed and appreciative audience in St Mary's church on Saturday evening, 3rd December.

The Music Director was David Quinn and MC for the evening was a rather dapper looking Tim Shaw

The programme proved to be one of the best , introducing the Christmas season with sacred and secular songs ranging from the 15th-21st centuries.

The evening began with a short motet by Heinrich Isaac ( b 1450) reminding us that from 500 years ago composers have long celebrated the birth of Christ. An ethereal introduction , with beautifully executed unison singing by the ladies, was the perfect way to start this seasonal concert.

Counter-tenor soloist Quentin Ma, a former winner at the Hong-King Schools' Music Festivals, performed one of three settings of Ubi Caritas with an almost instrumental purity of tone. The audience enjoyed another setting composed by former Witchert Chorale member, Simon Shaw who is currently choirmaster at Waltham St Lawrence.

The not so familiar music contrasted with the familiar. Moving from the early composers of Byrd, Gibbons and Isaac to the well known Bach Chorale melody Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring, this evening sung in German, ( English translation 'Jesus will always be my joy'). It was sensitively accompanied by organist Richard Smith.

Audience participation in two carols gave everyone a much needed opportunity to stand up and enjoy a good sing of Joy to the World and Of the Father's Love Begotten.

Rutter's well known Jesus Child was perhaps a trifle too fast for the words to project clearly but the audience loved the familiarity of a well known English composer, and feet were tapping to the rhythm!

Tenors and basses left no doubt as to their precise rhythmic drone in 'The Little Drummer Boy', written in 1941 by Katherine Kennicott Davis. The audience was spellbound.

By way of complete contrast, local thespian Andy Hardy gave two hilarious, dramatic readings from the pulpit. An episode entitled Carol Barking' from Gloucestershire author Laurie Lee's 'Cider with Rosie' and 'The Yorkshire Messiah' (author unknown). Complete with woolly bobble hat and scarf followed by flat cap, scarf and, of course ,a Yorkshire accent , there was not a dry eye in the house!

So to the final pieces of music: A most moving rendition of Lully, Lulla, Lullay by Stopford (b 1977) ... the long silence at the close was tangible.

Then a rousing arrangement of 'Jingle Bells' to send us all on our way.

Our thanks to David and the Witchert Chorale for a wonderful concert. What an excellent musical asset Witchert Chorale is to the community.  

Among the unsolicited comments overheard as the audience departed, the following were typical:

"What a lovely sound they make – so balanced and well attuned to one another"

"This is the best concert I've attended since well before the first lockdown – a wonderful evening"

"Andy Hardy's piece was great fun – nice to have some spoken material as well as the lovely chorale sounds"

"I found listening to some of the pieces quite emotional"

The annual Christmas Concert by Witchert Chorale was co-hosted, as always, by Haddenham Village Society, members of which provided wine and nibbles for the interval.

Monies raised from the evening will be divided equally between the Village Society and Friends of St Mary's, the latter helping to support the maintenance of the fabric of the church. The aims and activities of the Village Society are displayed on their website.

Jenny Hardy

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