Hathersage Choir Concert Programme December 10, 2017
All Once in royal David’s city, arr. Willcocks Choir A Spotless Rose, Herbert Howells Away in a manger arr. Willcocks Solo, When a child is born, Zacar Choir O little one sweet, J. S. Bach Fantasia on a Christmas Carol, (Baritone Solo), Ralph Vaughan Williams
Choir Jingle Bells, arr. Willcocks The Three Kings, Peter Cornelius All O little town of Bethlehem, arr. Vaughan Williams Solo Wind through the Olive Trees, Neaum Angel’s Carol, Rutter All Unto us is born a son arr. Willcocks Choir Whence is that goodly fragrance, (Baritone solo), arr. Willcocks Jesus child, Rutter We wish you a merry Christmas trad. All Hark, the herald angels sing, arr. Willcocks
Hathersage Choir Concert Christmas 2017 By Roger Hilyer
The choir has a new musical director, Kate Mercer. She introduced Glyn Webster to us, a young student building up a body of experience in pursuit of his ambitions for a career in music. Our rehearsals begin with Kate asking us to massage our ankles. (Our own ankles which is just as well.) Up the legs and body to the head. Cheeks, temples, forehead. Concentrate on the very highest point of the head and the whole skull can be a resonating chamber. No, it can’t, there’s other stuff in there. But if you act as if you think it can, it will. And sticking your finger in your mouth to see just how large the cavity really is, is a revelation. The choir sings a chord. The pitch is raised one semitone at a time. We pause to contemplate the new chord. The singing gets tighter, better pitched. The sensation is one of being inside the chord and so we begin our rehearsal.
The programme for the Christmas concert this year was nicely balanced, including three really demanding pieces.
The Jesus Child keeps up a breath-taking pace, with no opportunity to pause and recover. Any chorister not absolutely in control of the text is lost. The fugal sections of Fantasia on a Christmas carol require great concentration to ensure that the repeated phrases maintain their sequence and relationship.
A Spotless Rose demands exact allocation of syllables to notes; some syllables stretching over six or seven notes with others on a one note one syllable basis, with the added complication of unusual, and constantly changing, time signatures. The finished effect is unhurried and beautiful. To introduce this piece Kate tried to develop our mental flexibility by clapping to the ever-changing rhythm. We weren’t bad at that, but then we went on to suspended stamping. (Stamp four times, alternate feet, but don’t stamp a fifth – wave it nonchalantly in the air.) Odd, but fun.
The choir continued its policy of giving a platform to local talent. Kate, who sang three contrasting songs, is very young, but already poised and confident. She sings with intelligence, respecting the logic and structure of the song. She is blessed with a sweet voice that gives great promise for the future. Andrew is an old friend of the choir. His tone is beautiful, his articulation clear and his timing impeccable. Those of us who find counting difficult can rely absolutely on him for their entry.
Kate has inaugurated the new order with energy, discipline and style. We look forward to future adventures. Glyn has played his part well as an assistant to Kate. He is sixteen. Doing what he can do now, what will he be able to do in ten years’ time? We shall follow his career with interest.