Voices performed an especially festive and warm concert, ‘Voices of Christmas’, in St Oswald’s Church, under the direction of Melody Bishop. The fun atmosphere was quickly evident and the choir very much enjoyed themselves throughout, as did the audience, joining in the carol singing with the lyrics provided in the programme.
The pieces were a mixture of traditional carols, a premiere arrangement and more contemporary songs. ‘Let it Lewis’, a mash-up of all the music used in the John Lewis Christmas adverts, caught me by surprise when a smaller ensemble came out and sang the rather challenging arrangement (by Melody Bishop) from memory. These smaller groups returned throughout the concert and provided a welcome contrast. I would have liked to see more facial animation and barbershop style in this octet format. Consistent direct eye contact with the rest of the ensemble, and even the audience, although somewhat nerve-wracking, can transform the experience for the listener!
I also enjoyed the effect of moving the choir to the back of the church and processing down the aisle whilst singing. Voices could take this further by scrambling the voice parts and circling the audience in the nave to produce a surround sound effect. Melody’s communication with the choir was assured, although I think on occasion, she could soften her technique and allow the choir to produce really smooth legato.
Confidence was especially strong among the sopranos, and I particularly enjoyed Katherine Briggs’s solo in ‘The 12 Days After Christmas’. The male singers, although in smaller numbers, I felt could do with more conviction as their tone was great. In Berlioz’s ‘Thou Must Leave Thy Lowly Dwelling’, basses were occasionally left stranded at the ends of phrases when they still had more notes to sing – if other parts held their harmony until the basses had finished, then the choir could breathe together. Intonation across the choir was largely very solid, although on occasion it could lose energy.
Special congratulations to Fergus Carver for accompanying the choir and Melody for conducting and arranging. Look out for their Epiphany concert on 13 March at 7:30pm in St Oswald’s.