The annual Arbroath Choral Society Christmas concert in St Andrew’s Church on Sunday evening got off to a flying start with a glorious Gloria that filled the church to the rafters.
This set the atmosphere for a joyous pick and mix treat of traditional Christmas songs and carols with a generous sprinkling of several additional popular and some lesser known items.
The Gloria was followed by the powerfully moving Mary, Did you Know? written by Mark Lowry and Buddy Green for the 2004 film The Passion of Christ.
Congratulations to Jane Miller who once again has put together an remarkable selection of conventional and more innovative pieces that included a nursery rhyme in the style of Handel and the delightful Eriskay Love Lilt combined with numerous traditional versions of the Bethlehem story.
The arrangement of melodies and lyrics that complemented each other was spectacular, particularly in the latter part of the programme which featured two beautiful and peaceful songs. Marta Keen’s Homeward Bound (soloist Pamela Brewster) is a song with a number of interpretations that clearly moved many in the church to tears as did its companion piece You are Mine, a hymn composed by David Haas.
The evident versatility of the choir was demonstrated in the variety of singing styles that went from lullabys to cappella, from a medieval madrigal to a reindeer rap with, on the way, some very complex part singing.
Soloist Lucy Crabb (tenor horn) chose Send in the Clowns followed by Reginald Heath’s Air and Rondo, two popular pieces that demonstrated her musical skills and the versatility of her instrument. Lucy was accompanied by Alison Hart who played the piano throughout the concert .
The guest choir this year was the Inverbrothock Primary School Choir, conducted by Jill Bridges and accompanied by Kathleen Fairlie. The children and teachers had obviously put in a lot of hard work to produce two well rehearsed Christmas songs, the upbeat rock and roll Santa’s Choir that was followed by a change in tempo with the touching Most Beautiful Story Ever Told .
Moving into a more up-tempo mood, a jazzy, rock and roll rendition of Rondo from Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, was soundly sustained by Gordon Robertson on bass guitar and Peter Ney on drums.
The second soloist was Matthew Crabb who performed two virtuoso piano pieces, Scarlatti’s Sonata in C and Chopin’s Waltz in D flat major, popularly known as the Minute Waltz .
A particular highlight in an evening of highlights was when the two choirs combined to sing Joel Raney’s How Quietly , a song that blended adult voices with those of the children and featured a lovely version of that other favourite hymn Away in a Manger.
Working up to the grand finale of this figgy pudding of a concert was Holst’s Christmas Day which interweaves well known carols into a Christmas fantasy that includes God Rest you Merry Gentlemen, The First Noel and Good Christian Men Rejoice rounded off with a triumphant climax as the whole choir joins in with Born is the King.
The audience clearly enjoyed singing throughout the concert, including unreservedly learning and performing a part song that may (or may not) encourage some of those present to consider joining the choir. However, the clear favourite was their enthusiasm as they sang what must be one of the best loved Christmas Carols O Come All Ye Faithful
The closing moments of the concert that sent the audience out into the frosty night was John Rutter’s beautiful and moving Gaelic blessing, A Clare Benediction.
A date for your diary - The Choral Society’s Spring Concert, Handel’s Messiah, will be held in St Andrew’s Church on Sunday, April 26.