Christmas Celebration started with a melodious Glad Tidings from HCS, followed by an allcomers’ God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. After three HCS carols, including a delightfully performed Lute Book Lullaby, James Gower delivered a golden-voiced solo The Star of Bethlehem, that location being reprised with the audience carol O Little Town….
The bright-faced choristers of St Joseph’s In the Park then took the stage with two carols, including a beautifully arranged and enthusiastically sung When Christ was Born of Mary Free.
The HCS high point in the first half was O Holy Night, which along with James Gower’s rich bass tones moved us close to heaven. An energetic Merrily the Angels followed by a beautifully modulated O Come All Ye Faithful from everyone brought the first half to a resounding close.
Post-interval, HCS’ energetic Ring Out Wild Bells led into an interactive version of Nova, Nova, an entertaining pantomimic singalong. St Joseph’s choir then returned with a pure-voiced and charmingly-delivered Rocking and Mid-Winter.
James sang three 20th century seasonal songs with great emotional depth and vocal range, including White Christmas as you have never heard it before. The audience paid due tribute with a lusty Good King Wenceslas, but showed sufficient discipline to make way for St Joseph’s delightfully sung Page.
Reluctant to abandon pantomime, Derek Harrison and Roger Mullis delighted the audience with a seemingly impromptu Duetto Buffo di Due Gatti. HCS came back with a supremely balanced delivery of Bortniansky’s quasi-operatic Glory to God in the Highest.
Christmas Celebration ended with a rousing Hark the Herald from all present and HCS’ songful wish for A Merry Christmas.
A few individual credits: Christopher Muhley for his excellent accompaniments, Roger Mullis for his inimitable interstitials and of course James Gower for those stunning vocals. Last but not least, Derek Harrison created a superbly entertaining programme, showing again that this annual concert is the best starter to the festive season.
A final word of congratulation is for the choir itself which proved that the stronger balance between parts achieved in November’s Petite Messe Solennelle was no one-off but is now taking it from strength to strength.
To add a last mot mindful of Roger Mullis, the HCS is currently truly ‘on song’!