Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Jazzed-up carols set a dead cool Christmas scene

IT was a weekend of jazz: Chris Barber Big Band at Goring on Friday, a selection of Miles Davis CDs

IT was a weekend of jazz: Chris Barber Big Band at Goring on Friday, a selection of Miles Davis CDs on Saturday and a jazzed-up version of the Christmas story on Sunday. Perfect!

Actually, there was more to the concert than the jazz but that was the highlight for me. South Chiltern Choral Society’s festive concert is normally a mixture of audience carols, various Christmas music and contributions from a local school. It heralds the start of Christmas in Sonning Common and although there was a whole week to go it felt right.

The junior choir this year was from Sonning Common Primary School. They sang three modern pieces chosen by the children, and written by Mark and Helen Johnson. I love modern music and these pieces were vibrant, joyous and sounded really good fun to sing. You could see that the children enjoyed singing them.

They also joined in with one of the major pieces, On Christmas Night by Bob Chilcott. This is an amalgam of carol melodies set in different styles and moods. I wasn’t that impressed with the Chilcott piece as I think it spoiled the original carol tunes. Having said that, there were some good parts to this piece, particularly a solo by Susie Downer from the choir. There was also a tribute to John Tavener with a performance of his setting of The Lamb with words by William Blake and the choir did justice to this really quite difficult piece.

But the highlight for me was the jazzy piece of Christmas music Born In Bethlehem, a collection of spirituals arranged for mixed choir by musical director Gwyn Arch in 1997. With the addition of piano, bass, drums and a fantastic soloist, Aneesa Chaudry, this was a real gem. What’s more, there were some more jazzy carols played and sung by this quartet as the audience were taking their seats at the beginning of the concert. And Aneesa would have carried on at the end if time hadn’t run out!

She has a big voice and uses it to good effect. In the ballad Sweet Little Jesus Boy she put over a really stunning performance and in the other two solos, she elevated the sound to something really quite beautiful. Credit must also go to Gwyn Arch for his musical direction. This was an impressive piece of music and was really enjoyed by the capacity audience.

South Chiltern Choral Society Christmas concert

Chiltern Edge School

Sunday, December 15

John Evans

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