If you are a member of the Mid Wessex Singers choir, Christmas starts in early September, the 5th to be exact. Cast your mind back to September, wall to wall sunshine, boiling temperatures – would summer ever end?
The West Street Church Hall in Somerton was sweltering – doors and windows wide open, choir members in summer holiday gear. Then we started singing Christmas carols. The neighbours must have thought the world had gone mad. But as our Musical Director, Alice Dicker, pointed out, we only had 14 rehearsals until our Christmas concert to be held on 16th December. Panic flitted across a few faces. We had an exciting but exacting programme of music to absorb.
Apart from the usual regular carols for audience participation, Alice had put together an exciting programme for the choir to learn. And if you think that sounds tough spare a thought for our amazing Accompanist, Sheena Smith. Ever patient, competent and calm.
Our concert was to begin with Once in Royal David’s City, the first verse to be sung by a quartet picked from our members. Sally, Julie, Trevor and James, in beautiful four part harmony. Followed by Jesus Child, by John Rutter, pacy and upbeat. There is no Rose, by Bob Chilcott, altogether different, serene and finishing with a soprano solo, beautifully sung by Pauline. Next a wonderful gentle Polish carol, Infant lowly, Infant lowly with fabulous gentle harmony and then the Coventry Carol with it’s haunting familiar theme.
Alice had arranged a brilliant version of the Holly and the Ivy to a traditional Somerset melody. Jolly, upbeat and fun to sing. Gaudete followed, sung in Latin unaccompanied, fast. Challenging for the Choir, but executed exceedingly well on Concert night, much to the relief of all. And just in case the Choir hadn’t been challenged enough this was followed by Stille Nacht (Silent Night), sung again unaccompanied and in the original German! Alice loves to frighten us.
All Bells in Paradise by John Rutter followed. A wonderful piece to sing. Gentle to begin and then swelling and finally ending with soft harmony. Then here we go again, Psallite Unigenito, partly sung in Latin and English, unaccompanied. Hey, we’re getting used to this!
A deep breath as we launched into Carol of the Bells, set to a Ukrainian song. Fast, urgent and furious. Ending with a wonderful final low “Bohm” from the Basses, enhanced with a well timed strike on the gong by Jo. Wonderful!
Our encore proved mad and manic. Jingle Bells Hallelujah, an arrangement by Jonathan Miller. Try singing the words of the Hallelujah Chorus to the tune of Jingle Bells and THEN the words of Jingle Bells to the tune of the Hullelujah Chorus. Meltdown, at least during many rehearsals. But Alice said it’s a fun piece, just go for it. So on the night we did, enjoyed ourselves and the audience loved it – so much there was a standing ovation!
Onwards and upwards preparing for our 2024 Spring Concert in May. Oh yes – by the way Spring starts in January, at least it does for the Mid Wessex Singers! See you there …….