Chelmsford Singers in the
It's sixty years since Britten wrote Saint Nicolas for the Centenary of Lancing College. Though it is Christmassy in name only, this festive season has seen even more performances than usual, notably at the Barbican, and at Lancing itself.
Peter Nardone encouraged a decimated choir – the ship was seriously under-manned – through a splendid performance, with tenor Ben Cooper sincere and calm as the Bishop of Myra, and Alexander Palotai as the young Nicholas and one of the pickled boys, whose entry was a high point of this inherently dramatic work. The chorus were especially effective in the Birth of Nicholas, and in the storm. Britten wrote in his performing note that the conductor “must be cool-headed and should turn to the audience to conduct them in the two hymns” and our participation made the experience even more moving.
Finzi's “Christmas Scene”, In Terra Pax, is less often heard, but this too is a powerfully reflective work, framing Luke's worshipping shepherds with verses by Robert Bridges, who stands back, alone on a glorious Christmas Eve, bathed in the joy of a celebratory crowd of which he will never be part. Isabella Gage was the Angel, and baritone Martin Oxenham the poet.
Martin made a key contribution to the last work, too, Vaughan Williams' popular Fantasia on Christmas Carols. Lusty singing from the choir, and some superb work from a chamber orchestra led by Sarah Sew – a quintessential RVW string sound.