Sweet choral treats stimulated the senses: this was a hard-working evening for the audience, which was required at intervals to sing six carols.  I cannot vouch for the quality of my own contribution, as it was mercifully absorbed into the impressive volume from a church with no spare seats.

The real work came, of course, from the choir, who not only led the massed singing but also performed many less well-known pieces in attractive arrangements with their customary polish and accuracy.  It was good too to hear them sing another very impressive piece, A Lullaby to the Nativity by Richard Blackford with its attractive melodies, following the success of the choir’s performance of his Mirror of Perfection in their previous concert.

A feature of this concert was the contribution of the choir of Bengeo School, excellently drilled by their conductor, Catherine Smith to produce clarity and a good volume in their excerpts from Scrooge (the musical) in the first half and particularly effective in the second half with Herbert Chappell’s Raggle Taggle Three Wise Men with its honky-tonk underlying rhythm.

Every Christmas Cracker contains its special little treats when opened up; Sir Thomas Beecham referred to his bon-bons offered as choral treats.  In this concert the delicious interludes came from Paul Mayes and his trumpet – three trumpets actually. First, he gave a rendering of Jeremiah Clark’s Prince of Denmark’s March played on the unfamiliar piccolo trumpet, which he demonstrated with a dazzling cadenza that soared up into the rafters, probably shattering a few tiles with its concluding note as it soared to outer space and which endowed a familiar piece with an unaccustomed brightness of tone.  This he followed with O Holy Night by Adolphe Charles Adams on the more mellow E flat trumpet.  He used a B flat instrument in second half pieces to further confuse us; excellent music that entertained and instructed.

Natasha Page, a homegrown young soprano now in her second year at The Royal Welsh College of Music contributed some accomplished singing with Paul Mayes in Let the Bright Seraphim from Handel’sSamson.

But perhaps the tastiest surprise bon-bon in the Cracker came when the compere, Roger Mullis, combined voices with Music Director Derek Harrison for the two counter tenors to sing an alto duet by Purcell with sensitivity and the accomplishment to be expected.

Richard Henderson