Britten Concert Review

Review in The Wokingham Paper

Christmas harmony
Bracknell Choral Society, November 25, 2017

Christmas came early to St Joseph’s Catholic church, Bracknell, this year as Bracknell Choral Society presented a seasonal offering by British composers Benjamin Britten and Ralph Vaughan Williams.

The choir was joined by four young choristers from Worcester College, Oxford, and their contribution formed some of the high points of the evening.

Britten’s Ceremony of Carols opened the concert with an expressive unison plainchant, the voices blending well as all eyes were fixed on the director, Greg Hallam. With mostly clear diction to communicate the old English text, the choir tackled some challenging passages of music whilst accompanied only by solo harp.

Usually sung by upper voices, this SATB arrangement put different sections of the choir in the spotlight, providing a variety of textures for the contrasting movements.

With exactly one month to go until Christmas, Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on Christmas Carols put everyone in the festive spirit. Accompanied this time by chamber orchestra The Sensino Players and complemented by tenor soloist, Lawrence Thackery, the ensemble produced a fabulously rich sound to send tingles down the spine.

Britten’s St Nicolas required yet another variety of accompaniment, adding piano duet and organ to the orchestra, providing a variety of timbre for the different scenes in the drama. Lawrence Thackery took centre stage, giving a powerful, operatic depiction of the fourth-century saint.

Anyone familiar with this work immediately recalls the scene where St Nicolas brings back to life three boys who had been killed as food for the hungry villagers. The choristers’ plaintive singing conjured up vivid images of the boys’ gratitude to Nicolas for saving them from their grisly fate.

Christmas is not yet over for the Society as their popular Christmas Concert takes place on Wednesday, December 20 at Newbold College Church, Binfield.

JUDITH CREIGHTON
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