Review: Youngsters shine in strong and poignant concert

Clive Peacock reviews 100 Choristers for Christmas, presented by The Warwickshire Choristers, Warwickshire County Male Voices and the Boys and Girls Choir of St Alphege Parish Church, Solihull at Dale Street Methodist church, Leamington

So young choristers can still be naughty! Towards the close of an enterprising but exhausting two days of concerts in Solihull and Leamington, the very youngest of Warwickshire choristers enjoyed the fun of peer shirt tugging and changing the bauble arrangements of the magnificent Christmas tree. They deserved this opportunity for a bit of harmless naughtiness having worked diligently to deliver Benjamin Britten’s ‘A Ceremony of Carols’ in concert with St Alphege Boys’ and Girls’ Choir. Rita Schindler’s harp playing added to the enjoyment and poignancy of the piece. For many in the packed Dale Street Methodist Church the highlight was Deo Gracias, (Thanks Be to God) with the harp and choir gradually growing more resounding until the very last chord.

Warwickshire County Male Voices, under Daniel Galbreath’s clear direction, began the evening with works by Pitoni and Bruckner; sickness had taken its toll on numbers and the choir bravely completed the set before embarking on a piece by R F Smiley (a Leamington world première), accompanied by pre-recorded xylophonic sounds which, unnecessarily, overwhelmed the choir. Relief was to be found with Schindler’s delightfully thought-provoking harp solos.

Both Peter Warlock and Boris Ord used the same text to compose a carol Adam Lay Ybounden giving first the St Alphege boys and, then, the girls their solo outings with the charismatic, Joe Cooper, Director of Music, inspiring strong performances of other carols by Rutter, Willcocks and Hadley – highlights of the first half.

This carol concert was a very fitting start to Christmas for the packed house.

* The concert took place on December 21 2017. See Choristers.benjaminhamilton.co.uk for more information about the Warwickshire Choristers.