MERRILY ON HIGH!
Chelmsford Singers at the Cathedral
David Willcocks, doyen of choral Christmas, who died in September at the age of 95, was well represented in this upbeat selection box for choir, audience and brass.
Ding Dong ! Merrily on High, with decorative organ filigree from Laurence Lyndon-Jones, O Come All Ye Faithful, God Rest You Merry Gentlemen, and a rousing Hark the Herald to start, with fanfare from the excellent Westminster Brass. We were treated to four instrumental pieces from them, including a jolly Sussex Carol, two sleigh rides from East and West, and a Christmas Cracker which turned out to be more of a garland, a string of carols from Realms of Glory to Wenceslas.
The choral highlight was Cecilia McDowall's brand new Cantata for Christmas, A Winter's Night. An inventive sequence of five English, German and French carols linked by instrumental bridges from brass quintet, percussion and organ, given an impressive, joyous performance by the Singers. The quintet also featured in Rutti's Three Carols; the Presto climax a rhythmically exciting Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day.
Plenty of opportunity for us to match our lung power against the might of brass and organ, including a lighter Willcocks arrangement of Jingle Bells. Musical Director James Davy, sporting a festive scarlet bow tie, confessed to blowing the entire budget for this Christmas Concert on the band, imploring us to jingle our car keys in lieu of Sleigh Bells ...