Clive Walkley reviews the recent Kendal South Choir concert “A Christmas Celebration” which took place at St Thomas’ Church, Kendal …
The choir must have been comforted to see such a large audience in attendance for the Christmas celebration on Friday December 10th.
As noted in the program notes, the past two years have been a difficult time for choirs across the country with little to no live singing allowed and so after such a long interval there was inevitably a festive air in this concert. .
The first part of the concert had a Spanish flavor with six Christmas carols in Spanish. ‘Fum, fum, fum’, which opened the program, started off rather uncertainly with rhythmic mess and intonation errors, but the remaining chants were safer. Young Cumbrian guitarist Tom O’Neil provided effective accompaniment and then presented three solos demonstrating his competence as a soloist.
Navidad Nuestra by Ariel Ramirez closed the first part. It is a colorful work described as “A folk nativity drama based on the rhythms and traditions of Hispanic America”. Each movement expresses the Christmas story in a popular style. The orchestra’s percussionists (dressed appropriately in appropriate costume) clearly had fun and helped bring the work to life. The last movement “La Huida”, describing the flight of the Holy Family to escape persecution, was particularly effective as the choir followed Geoffrey Field’s excellent direction in reducing the volume to illustrate the text.
Perhaps the second part will remain more present in the minds of all present because of our familiarity with the many Christmas carols that form the content of the skillful “Fantasia on Christmas Carols” by Vaughan Williams and other arrangements of Christmas carols that followed. Christopher Steele’s voice was carried well in his solo sections, and the opening cello introduction to the first Christmas carol, “This is the Truth Sent from Above,” was performed beautifully by the first cellist. The choral singing seemed confident throughout with a solid contribution from the men in “Come all you worthy gentlemen”.
Of the remaining Christmas carols on the program, the surest song is that of William Mathias’ interpretation of “Sir Christèmas” and the ubiquitous “Jingle Bells”.
The audience’s participation in four well-known Christmas carols was greatly appreciated – especially our rendition of “The Holly and the Ivy” – which must have sent everyone home with a spring in their step.