Saturday, 16 December 2017

Box of musical delights was as Christmassy as the mince pies

A BOX of musical delights was on offer from the annual sell-out Christmas concert presented by Henley Symphony Orchestra at Christ Church.

As usual, the festivities began with a special offering of music for the very youngest of concert-goers earlier in the afternoon, during which the emphasis was on audience participation. The babies and toddlers took up the challenge to join in with wild enthusiasm.

The more traditional concert followed, combining well-loved carols for all to sing with a programme of lighter music often associated with New Year’s concerts — entertainingly introduced to the large audience by HSO conductor Ian Brown.

It was encouraging to see such a broad age range in the church, with several generations of families from primary age children to grandparents coming together to enjoy the event.

Performing a wide range of short works by a variety of composers is always quite a challenge, but HSO rose to it, with beautiful solos from principal wind and brass players in the Die Fledermaus overture by Johann Strauss II, and later in the dance suite La Boutique Fantasque by Rossini/Respighi.

Brown gave a few words about each piece — a practice much appreciated by audiences — and particularly highlighted the famously magical opening to the Hansel and Gretel overture by Engelbert Humperdinck, which the French horns of the orchestra performed beautifully.

The orchestra played the Thunder and Lightning Polka, also by Johann Strauss II, with great style, and benefitted from a highly confident percussion team who combine the necessary precision with an engaging sense of fun.

The concert also gave an opportunity to highlight the talents of local singer Chloe Cormack, a member of Henley Youth Choir, who sang Walking in the Air by English composer Howard Blake, her voice ethereally soaring over the orchestral accompaniment. The vocal solo was followed by The Dance of the Snowmen, also from The Snowman score.

With the spirit of the season in mind, it was an opportunity for the orchestra itself to publicly give thanks to its new sponsor, Davy Snowdon, of local company Pristine Conditions, who was present with his wife Jess.

Also at the concert was the Mayor of Henley, Julian Brookes, who spoke about the local fundraising effort for YMCA Henley, which was being supported by a raffle which took place during the evening, with a host of generous prizes.

Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride brought the music to a close, and the evening ended with the traditional serving of mulled wine and mince pies — the enticing smell permeating the church throughout the evening having lent an extra-Christmassy feel to the event.

Elestr Lee

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