Review of our recent ‘Celebrate Christmas’ concert.

York Press Review: York Musical Society, Celebrate Christmas,

St Lawrence’s Parish Church, York, December 9th 2017.

A large audience gathered last Saturday afternoon to enjoy York Musical Society’s Christmas concert that included extracts from Messiah and a reworking by conductor Richard Shephard of Corelli’s Christmas concerto for accompanied voices.

Around these two works were placed carols for the choir and seasonal numbers arranged for brass quintet or organ. The brass bonbons were neatly executed by the York Brass Quintet, with some particularly deft tuba work.

The choir’s usual conductor, David Pipe, was on the church’s electronic organ for the afternoon and gave us versions of Walking In The Air and Leroy Anderson’s ever-popular Sleigh Ride: here Pipe registered the music with great wit, using the tremulant to telling effect. He also accompanied the choir with sensitivity throughout the programme.

York Musical Society is a large choir that has a good balance between the four voice parts and a pleasing unanimity in its vocal delivery. The excerpts from Messiah were sung carefully and well, benefiting, no doubt, from the relatively stately speeds at which they were taken. Diction was clear, but perhaps a greater sense of joy and excitement from both choir and tenor soloist might have brought these wonderful Christmas words more vividly to life.

The Shephard-Corelli concerto is a delightful conceit: setting the final Pastorale to the words of Angels From The Realms Of Glory is an especially inspired decision, but the whole sequence of movements was evidently relished by the singers. Among the carols, Away In A Manger (to the minor key Normandy tune) showed off the ladies’ voices, both in the sopranos’ phrasing of the melody and in the altos’ evident enjoyment of their momentary clashing notes.

A lovely blend from the men came to the fore in Willcocks’ ebullient arrangement of the Sussex Carol. The audience joined in with Hark The Herald and after the final choral Christmas greetings we went out into the gloaming inwardly warmed and uplifted.
Review by Alasdair Jamieson