After Durham University Brass Band’s concert ‘Trooping the Colour’ back in November with The Band of the Royal Armoured Corps and Durham University Concert Band, their Christmas concert was eagerly anticipated. On this occasion the brass band collaborated for the first time with St Chad’s Chapel Choir for a very traditionally festive evening.
St Oswald’s Church provided the perfect setting; the path was lined with tea-lights and the church was decorated with a tree and ivy for a warm candlelit concert.
The first half featured St Chad’s Choir who opened with the Gloria from Mozart’s Coronation Mass. This was conducted by Roger Muttitt, with a bold strong sound, both warm and crisp.
The choir then moved on to some Christmas music, beginning with Michael Head’s The Little Road to Bethlehem. The humming at the beginning took a little while to settle; it all fell into place as the sopranos came in with the melody. The chapel choir produced a wonderfully warm sound, especially in the alto section.
Sans Day Carol provided a change in mood moving to a much brighter and lighter sound. The male section of the choir sounded particularly crisp in this carol and the choir had a strong control over the dynamics of this song.
The next work, O’ Radient Dawn saw a change of conductor. This was certainly a very radiant performance by the choir, with a strong sound.
The choir were provided with a short break as their organist Peter Swift gave a lovely solo with Stanford’s At Christmastide.
Following this, the choir gave a light and bouncy rendition of an arrangement of the old well known tune In Dulci Jubilo before finishing with Tomorrow Shall be my Dancing Day. This was evidently the song that the choir enjoyed the most. The light organ entry was followed in the same style and energy by the choir. Although some of the middle section could have been a little more together rhythmically, this work was certainly a joy to watch and put everyone in high spirits for the interval.
After some very enjoyable refreshments of mulled wine and mince pies the audience were welcomed back with a brass band classic Where Eagles Dare. After beginning with the clear insistent rhythm of the snare drum the brass joined in with a full and warm wall of sound. The lower brass sounded particularly strong and although the trumpets’ entry took a little while to settle their high notes were beautifully controlled. This was rhythmically tight, and well conducted by Abi Groocock.
An arrangement by Chriss Mallett of Candlelight Carol showed off the sonorous sound the Durham University Brass Band are capable of producing. This piece also showed off the dynamic range of the brass band, as it grew slowly from a well-controlled piano.
The concert featured a stunning arrangement by the Brass Band conductor Abi Groocock of the hymn tune Be Still, My Soul from Sibelius’ tone poem Finlandia. This featured three soloist on euphonium, flugel and soprano cornet, beginning with Sam Musson on euphonium before being joined by Natalie Morrion on flugel. Both displayed a beautiful tone and mixed well together in a duet. This piece grew as the rest of the band joined.
Sebastian Chenery as associate conductor took on the Durham University Brass Band tradition, taking over role of conductor for the classic Jingle Bells, with light bell sounds under the souring melody. The role of associate conductor gives a member of the band who may be interested in conducting in the future the opportunity to prepare for this. It also Abi Groocock the time to change into the traditional Father Christmas attire. This gained a smattering of laughter especially when she then commenced to try and play the cornet with a beard in the way.
The brass band then finished their set with a bright and fun performance of Christmas Joy March.
The latter part of the concert saw the joining together of both the Brass Band and St Chad’s Chapel Choir with audience participation. For the ultimately festive flourish, they finished of course with some traditional Christmas carols. The audience were encouraged to join in and did so with great gusto and enthusiasm!
This was a truly enjoyable concert; the perfect way to get in the Christmas mood for the end of term. Both St Chad’s Chapel Choir and Durham University Brass Band created a strong and warm sound displaying versatility in their playing. The energy and joy presented especially towards the end of the concert was clearly mirrored by the audience response and by their appreciation.