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 style and the Chamber Choir grasped this masterfully.
Next we had The Three Kings by Dove rather than the perhaps better known Cornelius. However the audience was not disappointed by their captivating performance. To finish they presented Silent Night by Hill. Each of these works showcased a number of soloists within the group and really showed off the choirs’ new line-up.
DUOS closed the first half with a Christmas Carnival, and certainly brought the tempo up with this thrilling arrangement of various Christmas tunes. Despite some intonation issues in the upper wind, this was an exciting end to the first half and left us wanting more from DUOS.
Following an interval, where mince pies were on offer, Northern Lights took to the stage to offer both Christmas and popular songs. Lucy Booth’s solo in Latch was especially electrifying. It was also a very informed decision to use Pentatonix’s arrangement of Mary Did You Know? as the balance and style fit perfectly with Northern Lights’ singers. A classic Christmas staple, Baby it’s Cold Outside, followed, with some clever interjections of other Christmas tunes underneath. Northern Lights finished with an uplifting rendition of Merry Christmas, Everyone, where every single member got a chance for a line as the microphone was passed around. I got everything I expected from Northern Lights and more; the harmonies were tight and the choreography made for an exciting performance.
If anyone has ever played in or listened to an orchestra around Christmas time, it will come as no surprise that Anderson’s Sleigh Ride was to follow. The percussion section of DUOS was in their element, although the tempo may have been a little too fast as the sleigh bells struggled to keep up. This also gave the spectacular string section the chance to shine, under the impeccable direction of Hayley Lam.
Soloists Emily Beringer (from Chamber Choir) and Maddy Wattles (from Northern Lights) took to the stage in turns to perform Somewhere Only We Know and All I Want For Christmas. Although both soloists sounded brilliant, especially battling the orchestra accompanying them behind, this portion could have used a little more technical management as the mic did not properly amplify them in the large church hall.
Finally, to round the entire Christmas extravaganza off, the audience got to join in on a traditional carol, O come, all ye faithful. With excellent descants from the choir (and the audience too, it must be noted!) this was the perfect way to celebrate the Christmas period with some excellent musicians. We look forward to what each society has to offer us next term.