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The Lancaster Singers perform Christmas Music

at the Ashton Memorial,
Tuesday 16 December 2008

Reviewed by Humble Sam

A highbrow music concert doesn’t have to be highbrow, does it?

Last Tuesday evening at the Ashton Memorial, under the direction of Lancaster university music professor Denis McCaldin, the renowned Lancastrian choir Lancaster Singers performed celebrated Yuletide songs and popular Christmas Carols.

Among the tunes were Britten’s There is no rose, Monteverdi’s Christe, Redemptor omnium and The Twelve Days of Christmas which the choir sang on its own – as opposed to songs like Williams’ O Little Town of Bethlehem and the traditional O come all ye faithful which both the choir and the audience sang with Denis McCaldin constantly rotating 360 degrees to conduct everyone (expect for the Memorial staff who discreetly hid in the nooks and crannies of the memorial).

The songs were arranged along the usual lines with a few pleasant variations to make it that much more interesting for the singers and that much more entertaining for the audience.

One should certainly also mention that there were two solo performances: Chris Haughton (aka The Rock of the Lancaster Singers) employed his glorious baritone on White Christmas and Louise Wood used her splendid soprano on Once in Royal David’s city.

In between the various sections, the quiet but indomitable flutist Helen Huxtable and the dapper Martin Widden on a Yamaha Clavinova keyboard (a device that can produce convincing piano, harpsichord and organ sounds) provided both the singers and the audience with musical interludes such as the final movement of Mozart’s celebrated flute concerto in D major (K314, originally composed for the oboe).

After a final arousing performance by both the choir and the audience, the evening ended with exquisite mulled wine, scrumptious mince pies and pleasant conversation. Unlike my previous experience at Candlelight Baroque, this had been a truly pleasant evening with a great audience and great musicians.

Finally, it should be mentioned that this evening was the last Christmas event the Lancaster Singers performed under the guidance of Denis McCaldin who recently announced his retirement as Director of the choir – after eighteen years of hard work - to trek across the Pennines to be closer to his family. The choir and Martin Widden sent him off with an arousing He’s a Jolly Good Fellow much to the audience’s delight and possibly to Mr & Mrs McCaldin slight embarrassment.

An all-round jolly good evening then: a highbrow music concert doesn’t have to be highbrow, don’t you know?

© 20/12/08 Humble Sam


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