IF there could ever be a perfect Christmas concert, then this was it. The scene was set by flaming torches that lined the approach to the candlelit abbey and the waft of mulled wine as you entered, but even those festive touches, imaginative though they were, could not have hinted at the excellence of the programme that was to come.
This concert, in aid of Hft charity (formerly known as the Home Farm Trust) was presented by the choir of New College, Oxford under the baton of Edward Higginbottom.
The silence was broken by the sound of a single recorder that led the choir’s procession from the back of the church, and then the glorious sound of the choir filled the abbey. They presented a wonderful and thoughtfully-chosen programme including favourites such as O Magnum Mysterium by Morten Lauridsen, Joubert’s There Is No Rose and The Lamb by John Tavener, plus faultless performances of Sweelinck, Bach and Palestrina, contrasted with simple Christmas melodies such as Michael Head’s The Little Road To Bethlehem.
The readings that punctuated the music were equally varied, ranging from the inspiring, thought-provoking and meditative to the downright hilarious — and they couldn’t have been in more capable hands.
Robert Hardy set the bar high with his Bible reading from John and his interpretation of Dr Martin Luther King’s 1967 sermon on peace, then had his audience rocking with laughter with Thomas Hardy’s Absentmindedness In A Parish Choir. Juliet Stevenson read a very funny excerpt from Gervase Phinn’s A Yorkshire Nativity, followed by a trip to the stable at Bethlehem with The Innkeeper’s Wife by Clive Sansom. The two readers closed the concert together with the moving Beatitudes Of The Learning Disabled, an annual feature which aptly expresses the ethos of Hft.
The Coming Of Christmas
Thursday, December 12