Sunday, December 22, 2013


Chelmsford Singers at Chelmsford Cathedral

The Manchester Carols is a Christmas sequence for the 21st century, written by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy with music by Sasha Johnson Manning.
And, just as at the Royal Northern six years ago, the composer was on hand to sing the soprano solos.
The twelve carols are linked by narration [Malcolm Kimmance the reader], and together they re-tell the familiar myths and legends, embroidered by the popular imagination, and often strikingly vivid – the shivering shepherds and the glamorous camels, and most poignant of all, Joseph wandering through trees, his carpenter's craftsmanship seeing their wood become cradle, coffin and cross.
The carols are bookended by The Carol Singers' Carol and the unashamedly populist Present Song – a catchy, bouncy number and, rather like The Twelve Days of Christmas [also programmed here], an eclectic list of gifts: armagnac, frankincense, cardigans ...
The music is tuneful and accessible, with colourful orchestral writing. Sung with enthusiasm by the Chelmsford Singers, directed by James Davy, and joined by the red and blue jumpers of children from the Cathedral Primary School and Our Lady Immaculate, the Chelmsford Sinfonietta [leader Rolf Wilson] and baritone Robert Garland.
He was also the soloist in a wonderful performance of Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on Christmas Carols, with rich resonant sounds from the strings and robust choral singing. Plenty more seasonal goodies for the packed Cathedral to savour – Davy's Stokowskian setting of Adeste Fideles, Good King Wenceslas, Silent Night and Britten's lovely New Year Carol:
Open you the West Door, and turn the Old Year go ...”

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