Review – A Cappella Christmas!

There was certainly a buzz to the room as the audience sat down eagerly anticipating the start of joint concert of Full Score and Durham Dynamics. Both groups clearly are well supported as the whole church was completely full up. This was the debut concert for new group Full Score led by Alex Mackinder and Sophie Atkinson. There can often be a concern for new groups being added to the umbrella of Music Durham with the echoing phrase ‘Oh, not another one!’, but Full Score have managed to shatter this stigma delivering with something quite different, exciting and musically very slick. It went off to a great start with a great arrangement of Isn’t She Lovely, heralding the upper voices of the choir. There were occasions where the balance was slightly off and the group could perhaps benefit with a stronger back row but I had no doubt at this point that the lower voices would prove themselves in pieces to come. Their second piece Java Jive created a great atmosphere bringing many smiles and the odd tapping foot. When the group perfectly aligned the 6th chords used in this piece, an occurring harmonic chordal use in barbershop repertoire, the voices excelled. It is important to note that the choreography could be improved but naturally with more practise and rehearsal this will be well within their abilities after showing...

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Review – Flute Choir ‘Christmas with a Twist’

For the penultimate concert of Michaelmas term, Flute Choir presented ‘Christmas with a Twist’, in support of the national disability charity, ‘Sense’. In the intimate setting of the Kingsgate Room, DSU, a rather sizeable audience gathered. Perhaps this can be attributed to Flute Choir’s commendable publicity efforts, including a recent stint on BBC Radio Tees. The concert began all of a sudden with a dramatic and eerie rendition of Carol of the Bells performed off-stage, introducing the audience to the gentle tone of the Flute Choir’s sound world. The Flute Choir then began properly with Santa’s Symphony (arr. Ricky Lombardo), which was full of festive tongue and cheek. Despite a few slips in intonation, the piccolo solo was confidently performed by Lucy Cunningham. By Sussex Carol, the ensemble had settled and gave a more assumed performance. The Flutewise Theme was particularly enjoyable, with jazz rhythms, extended techniques as well as commendable articulation emanating from the group. The Flutewise Theme perhaps lacked a little energy and I felt that it could have been taken at a slightly faster tempo. Nevertheless, the first half of the concert was most enjoyable. ‘Christmas with a Twist’ also performed a large number of classic Christmassy crowd-pleasers, including Deck the Halls, Joy to the World, We Three Kings and Silent Night. Ding Dong Merrily on High (er and Higher) arranged by Gareth McLearnon was a...

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Review – 12 Days Till Christmas

The beautiful and historic Durham Town Hall was the perfect venue for an evening of traditional band music and carols when Durham University Brass Band and Concert Band joined together for their festive celebration “12 Days Till Christmas”. Brass Band was led by their principal conductor Jonathan Fenwick, and Concert Band by their associate conductor, Chloe Langham. It was great to see Langham coming into her own as a conductor, but we join with the ensembles in sending well wishes to Hugo Jennings and wish him a speedy recovery. Brass Band opened the evening with an arrangement of ‘Jingle Bells’ by Derek Ashmore. The ensembles warm sound was an excellent start to the evening, though the tempo could have been pushed a little to really liven the atmosphere in the hall. The dynamics of the whole band were excellent, but special mention must be given to the trombone section for their impeccable intonation. Moving away from festivities now, the band performed ‘Punchinello’, a traditional brass band march often heard at the Durham Miners Gala and Whit Friday Marches. The group were clearly comfortable here and this particular march allowed all sections to show off, though it did lack some of the ‘punch’ a march of this calibre deserves. From the lively march we moved to what some might argue British brass bands do best: hymn tunes. Due to the...

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Review – Lost in Durham (Christmas Concert)

What else do you need to get into the Christmas spirit than an extravaganza featuring some of Durham’s finest talents? This joint DUOS/DUCC/Northern Lights concert ensured that a packed Elvet Methodist Church was in for a festive treat. The evening began with a powerful rendition of Whittaker’s arrangement of Carol of the Bells/God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, which included all societies taking part in the concert. Not only was it visually compelling, with the large orchestra taking up the width of the church, and the choirs stood behind, but also Alex Mackinder’s command of such a large ensemble proved for an impressive opening. Chamber Choir and DUOS followed up with Finzi’s In Terra Pax, which is a partial setting of Bridge’s poem ‘Noel: Christmas Eve, 1913’. This touching work recounted the angel’s appearance to the shepherds on Christmas Night. Special commendation has to go to the two soloists, Matt Asquith as the poet and Hannah Cox as the angel, as both handled the balance extremely well. Chamber Choir then took to the front to perform 4 arrangements with Josh Ridley conducting. The first, The Heaven’s Flock by Esenvalds, was an emotional start to their exquisite set. This was followed by an arrangement of Lully Lulla by Leighton. This arrangement was written when Leighton was only 19 and studying at Oxford University but shows all the traits of his mature...

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Review – ‘Ad Lucem’

The Durham University Choral Society provided a Baroque feast on Saturday 9th Decemeber, the in the beautiful Elvet Methodist Church. Led this term by Dr Katherine Hambridge, assistant professor in Musicology at the university, the choir was put through their paces with two challenging and engaging highlights of the baroque choral repertoire. The Choral Society was joined by the Classical Ensemble, following their successful collaboration last summer.  The showcase from both ensembles made the evening feel like a real event, and it was wonderful to be so immersed in baroque music. Opening with Dixit Dominus, a complex and spirited setting of Psalm 110, the choir demonstrated its capacity for attention to detail and clear diction.  A great deal of the impact of the piece comes from precise phrasing and attack on consonants. The hard work that had clearly been put into diction allowed the drama of the piece to come to life. The Classical Ensemble were initially not as steady as I would have expected.  However, with the mammoth concert scheduled for the following day, it would be understandable if these players were a little under rehearsed.  By the Juravit Dominus, the ensemble was in a more confident flow.  The colouring achieved by the choir at this point made was also remarkable. After an intermission, a fuller band comprised of DUCE members took to the stage alonsde the choir and...

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Upcoming Events

Wed 24

Lunchtime Concert – Northern Lights

24 January 1:15 pm - 1:45 pm
Mon 29

Arts of Breath: Breath in Choral Singing

29 January 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Tue 30

MUSICON 4 – The Clerks

30 January 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Wed 31

Masterclass: Daniel Cook

31 January 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Feb 03

Durham Vocal Festival

3 February 8:00 am - 10 February 10:00 pm