Hastings Philharmonic Christmas Concert, review: St Mary in the Castle, December 14

The guest children's choir from Christ Church Primary School. Photograph by Peter Mould
The guest children's choir from Christ Church Primary School. Photograph by Peter Mould

A full house, a buzz of excitement and some of the best Christmas music this season – all of which we have come to expect from Hastings Philharmonic, but it is none the less very welcome when the time comes round.

We have also grown used to the younger members bringing us string solos before the main event begins, and so it was this year with three young violinists, concluding with an impressive reading of the sublime second movement of Bach’s double violin concerto.

The Brass Quintet. Photograph by Peter Mould

The Brass Quintet. Photograph by Peter Mould

Then onto the main event, diving in at the deep end with God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen for all concerned.

The choir items were arranged in small groups and focussed this year on quieter more reflective pieces, opening with the ladies voices in Adam Lay Ybounden and a moving I Wonder as I Wander in John Rutter’s arrangement. After another carol for all, the Hastings Philharmonic Brass Quintett gave us a sparkling version of the Sussex Carol and a subtle arrangement of Silent Night.

The next two items brought a strong contrast between the beautifully reflective O Magnum Mysterium by Morten Lauridsen and the vibrant Shepherd’s Pipe Carol from John Rutter.

After the interval and two more carols for all, the choir gave us a jolly Sir Christèmas and a gentle Gabriel’s Message, before the Brass Quintet returned with a baroque sounding Es ist ein Ros Entsprungen and an unusual arrangement of The Holly and the Ivy.

Hastings Philharmonic Christmas Concert. Photograph by Peter Mould

Hastings Philharmonic Christmas Concert. Photograph by Peter Mould

Then came the moment without which it would not be a Hastings Philharmonic Christmas – Marcio da Silva singing O Holy Night. It seems to get better and more moving every year, and long may it continue.

The guest children’s choir this year were from Christ Church Primary School who sang Jay Althouse’ In December and Jonathan Dove’s Snow. Both of these were probably unfamiliar to the majority of the audience and a fine addition to the Christmas repertoire. They concluded with a rousing Jingle Bells before we all joined in Away in a Manger.

The final item from the choir reflected the note of intimacy that pervaded this year’s concert with A Maiden Most Gentle before we all came together to sing O Come, All Ye Faithful.

The atmosphere in St Mary’s was certainly very warm and we understand that it will be even warmer soon as the money has been raised to replace the boilers!

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