Clive Peacock reviews the Saintt James's Singers at St Mary's church, Warwick
As hundreds made their way to Warwick Castle’s carols on Saturday, so the loyal Saint James’s Singers audience met at St Mary’s church for their annual carol concert. Julian Glover of RSC fame was installed at short notice as reader; his telling contributions were some of the highlights of this successful joint venture of both senior and junior choirs. Tributes to sadly missed composers and musicians, Guy Woolfenden and Stephen Hancock, reminded many good friends of both how much they are being missed.
A chancel procession singing Away in a Manger preceded the first of five opportunities for the audience to enjoy singing many of the very well-known carols including Holst’s arrangement of In the Bleak mid-Winter and Willcocks’s arrangement of the traditional carol God Rest You Merry Gentlemen.
Soon it was time to enjoy the writings of John Betjeman who worried that by the end of advent the cards received, if placed end to end, would exceed 20 yards. Glover reminded us that “friends are those who stay regularly in touch”. He had great fun reciting a story from Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows, using his skills to depict the various characters with inimitable accents. But why do the lesser mortals, in this case the field mice visiting to sing carols, always seem to be given a distinctive west-country yokel voice? Simpson’s Joy Shall Be Yours was a chance for the field mice to show their talents with the choir as they sang to Mole and Rat.
Guy Woolfenden’s Compton Verney Carol features frequently at this Christmas event; I’m reliably informed it has been sung on 17 occasions since its composition in the late 1990s and was a fitting end to an entertaining first half. As the audience remained seated, not quite sure about what happens next, Glover broke the silence insisting we “get up and do something”. He continued to pitch his efforts at a witty level introducing an American accent for the New York Sun newspaper story to reassure an eight year old that Santa “lives and lives for ever”.
Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium was the choir’s finest delivery with soprano clarity, plenty of alto input and control across the whole, followed immediately by a fine descant in the last verse of Hark! the Herald Angels Sing.
* The concert took place on September 17. Visit www.stjamessingers.com for information about the singers' future concerts.