Spirit of Christmas


A packed Scout and Guide Hall greeted Strathaven Choral Society on Sunday December 11th for their annual Christmas Concert, appearing again with the wonderful Coalburn Silver Band.
The concert got off to a fine, atmospheric start with The Little Horses by Aaron Copland, the first of five of his Old American Songs, which were spread throughout the evening. This was a challenging opening to the concert, which the choir grasped eagerly, with some lovely singing and despite the sopranos and altos being positioned some way apart, everything was really well synchronised, with perfectly tuned unisons and some telling pianissimo singing.
As always, through the concert, there were the familiar carols for audience participation, starting with a rousing rendition of O Come All Ye Faithful, accompanied by the Coalburn Silver Band, to get us all warmed up and into the Christmas Spirit!
The second of the American Songs, Zion’s Walls showed off the choir’s clear diction with a wonderfully powerful ending and John Rutter’s Angel Tidings also demonstrated how much Christopher Barr achieves with the choir – precise articulation and well judged balanced harmonies. I love watching him conduct, it takes a lot of energy to engender that level of choral singing. I did think that at times, perhaps not all the members of the choir were watching him, but he had obviously rehearsed them so well, that it made no difference to the overall performance.
Having been so impressed with the Band last year, I was greatly looking forward to hearing them again and they certainly didn’t disappoint – they kicked off their musical offerings with a Christmas Frenzy, incorporating lots of Christmas songs I knew and quite a few that I didn’t! What a fabulous sound, with playing of the highest order from, it has to be said, a majority of extremely young players.
This concert had everything – readings – Iain Sinclair’s first half offering about the ubiquitous Christmas chain letter certainly rang true with a number of the audience! – first class solo singing from Michael Yeoman, a talented young tenor to look out for in the future, and singing and playing of a very high standard from all participants.
I particularly enjoyed hearing again George Shearing’s Who Is Sylvia, with its lush harmonies especially in the piano part, played as expertly as ever by Razvan Luculescu – a real asset to the choir; and also one of my favourite carols – In the Bleak Midwinter – sung with a lovely legato line and excellent diction. And of course, it was a total joy to hear the young players in the Coalburn Silver Band making such wonderful music.
Congratulations to all concerned in the concert – another memorable night with Strathaven Choral Society, which as always, perfectly demonstrated the Spirit of Christmas

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