Glancing back and looking forward with Congleton Choral Society
'Nice to see you, to see you ……' announced the compere; 'nice' was the loud response. No, this is not a report of the final of Strictly Come Dancing but of Congleton Choral Society's Christmas Concert.
Musical Director Christopher Cromar welcomed the audience warmly and encouraged everyone to participate in the varied programme. During the first traditional carol, Once in Royal David's City, we heard Congleton Children's Choir for the first time. Despite only a few weeks of rehearsal they sang confidently on their own and with the adults. Later in the evening, children from the audience joined them on stage for Away in a Manger. Christopher Cromar inspired several children in the balcony to copy his conducting actions with enthusiasm during The First Nowell; so do we have some potential choir members and leaders here?
The musical items were complemented by readings by musician and poet W. Terry Fox, and Elin Rees provided a full tone on the organ which supported the choir and audience. It was inspiring for the audience to sing well known carols such as Hark the Herald Angels Sing with the choir's descant soaring over the tune.
Few Christmas concerts are complete without a carol by John Rutter and the adult choir gave precise, sensitive renditions of the Star Carol and Nativity Carol. In addition, we warmed to the lyrical A Maiden Most Gentle by Andrew Carter, and enjoyed the beautiful solos from new members Clare Hale and Liam Murphy in Harold Darke's Glancing back and looking forward with Congleton Choral Society.
Amongst the lighter moments, the concert reflected the more serious side of Christmas. As we read in the programme notes,'the heart of the message is to welcome the birth of Christ'. Perhaps this was the reason for choosing Fantasia on Christmas Carols by Ralph Vaughan Williams which was first performed in Hereford Cathedral in 1912 at the Three Choirs Festival. Baritone Mark Rowlinson sang the solo narrative with the choir but it would have been helpful to have the words of the less familiar carols in the programme.
After the concert, one of the audience commented to a member of the choir: 'We are in total awe of the standard of performance you achieve at every concert, engaging with the audience and obviously enjoying all that you do.'
At the end of this joyous evening, I had no hesitation in writing the dates of the 2014 programme into my new diary. Coming next to the town hall is 'A Night at the Opera' on Saturday 5th April 2014.. The evening will have a dramatic and theatrical flavour; opera lovers will hear some favourite arias and choruses performed by the choir and professional soloists; and for those who think they don't like opera, this is a chance to sample some 'bite-sized chunks' from the music of a variety of composers, including Bizet, Tchaikovsky, Mascagni, Borodin and Verdi. The accompanist will be distinguished pianist Dominic John. Subsequent concert dates are 19th July, 22nd November and 20th December.
If you love to sing, why not join the Choral Society's Singing Day on Saturday 4th October at St Michael and All Angels Church, Macclesfield. Joseph Cullen, who has worked with the London Symphony Chorus and Huddersfield Choral Society, will be leading the singing of Mozart's Coronation Mass. Further details are on the Choir website at www.congletonchoralsociety.org.uk