Brace of Choral Spectaculars were worthy of a Victorian Christmas

Read John Burleigh’s review of the Christmas Concerts in the Henley Standard

Henley Choral Society Christmas concerts | St Mary’s Church, Henley | Saturday December 9

WHEN one thinks of the great English tradition of choral singing the immediate reaction is usually to dwell on the magnificence of the northern massed choirs of Victorian times — such as the famous Huddersfield Choral Society.

But this easily ignores the considerable and well-established choral activities we have in the south of the country, not least in Henley, where the Henley Choral Society fielded three choirs, no less, in two sold-out Christmas concerts given in one day.

The Onyx Brass quintet made a major contribution, adding well integrated colour and weight to the choral accompaniments. This talented ensemble, on its own behalf, gave dazzling performances at both concerts of a Carol Fantasy and virtuoso arrangements from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite — immaculate playing that would have Salvation Army Bands in Christmassy town squares up and down the land melting down their instruments in despair.

This musical gorge-fest got off to an excellent start with O Come All Ye Faithful, the first of three carols sung during the afternoon concert by the congregation together with all three choirs, full organ and elaborate brass accompaniments.

The well-trained junior youth choir — 30-plus talented youngsters aged seven to 11 — sang two songs, Shoshone Love Song and Lean On Me, accurately pitched and in perfect unison.

A little later in the programme, this choir also fielded a soloist from their midst, little Lucy Beesley. Her clear and confident performance of the first verse of Once in Royal David’s City left many of the audience holding back tears whilst struggling to provide the remaining four verses themselves.

It’s a Christmas tradition that never fails to move!

Full article here