With People Look East echoing around St John’s Church the audience were made ready for another varied and entertaining selection of Christmas music from the Ashbourne Singers under their Musical Director Steve Duckworth.
Sleepers Wake by Mendelssohn comes from the Oratorio St Paul and was commissioned in 1831 by the conductor of the Cecilia Choir and Orchestra of Frankfurt. “Awake! His kingdom is at hand! Go forth; go forth to meet your Lord!” Being hymn like it meant that the audience quickly engaged in the unfamiliar melody.
It’s always nice to hear new pieces and modern arrangements of traditional Christmas music. Will Todd’s My Lord Has Come (2011) is a beautiful telling of the Christmas story with intensity and drama which the choir obviously enjoyed singing. The jazzy up-tempo version of Good King Wenceslas was probably a shock to some but the familiar tune was there for all to enjoy and join in with for the last verse.
Back to the 17th century for the next piece, Sing the Birth by German Composer Michael Praetorius. Then we were in familiar territory with John Rutter’s Angels’ Carol, you could feel the emotion and warmth of Christmas as the Singers sang this beautiful melody.
The women in the choir sang Heaven Knows Why which was first performed in December 1997 at the Guildhall, London in the presence of HRH The Princess Royal.
The Singers have been blessed with having a number of talented accompanists to support the choir including Josh Short who on this occasion also stepped forward for his conducting debut with Sing Lullaby! Lullaby Baby a Baroque Noel.
The stirring Torches by John Joubert lifted the mood. Written in 1951 its simple, folk-like melody that is repeated over and over again is one of those tunes that sticks with you and the choir gave it their full welly! The carol Oh Come, O Come Emmanuel closed the first half and the audience was treated to mulled wine and homemade mince pies in the interval.
A now firmly established tradition is the singing of the Twelve Days of Christmas with full audience participation. Each section of the audience sang their parts with gusto and very weird animation! Always popular and sets a joyous mood for the second half.
Emma and Ellie Palmer (mother and daughter) played the Pachelbel Canon on violin whilst the choir sang the familiar First Noel over the top to beautiful effect.
It is a magical time for children and the Young Singers were a joy to hear and a joy to watch! YAS are now an important part of the choir concerts especially at Christmas. All Around The World, a joyful celebration of Christmas around the world was followed by Somewhere Only We Know by Keane and Walking in The Air from The Snowman; Lovely.
Ellie-May Astbury started out with the Young Singers and has lately been singing with the main choir. Her singing talent is obvious and the duet with Steve Duckworth singing Lark in The Clear Air was beautiful.
Bob Chilcott’s arrangement of In The Bleak Midwinter had us all wishing for colder weather and the familiar Joy to the World had the audience joining in. A Festive Christmas Celebration was a medley of traditional Christmas songs interspersed with sax and trumpet parts from Sophie Freeman and Josh Short.
It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas is one of those American Christmas songs that has lasting popularity and harks back to the smooth crooners of the post war years who wore Christmas jumpers long before Young Ashbourne Singers. To settle the audience and send them away with a warm feeling the choir finished with The Candle Song.
Ashbourne Singers have been going now for nearly ten years and these Christmas Concerts are an established part of the season for many people in Ashbourne. The quality of the singing and the enthusiasm for the music by Steve Duckworth is obvious.
Musical Director – Steve Duckworth Trumpet & Piano – Josh Short Violin & Piano – Ellie Palmer Violin – Emma Palmer Saxophone, Flute & Piano – Sophie Freeman Piano – Michael Halls
Special thanks to Ashbourne Singers & YAS Helpers and Volunteers St. John’s Church Methodist Church Natural Choice, Ashbourne