Clive Walkley reviews Kendal South Choir's recent concert "A Christmas Celebration" which took place at St Thomas's Church, Kendal...

The choir must have been heartened to see such a large audience present for the Christmas Celebration on Friday, December 10.

As noted in the programme notes, the last two years have been a difficult time for choirs nationwide with little or no singing in public allowed and so after such a long gap there was inevitably an air of celebration in this concert.

Part one of the concert had a Spanish flavour with six carols in Spanish. ‘Fum, fum, fum’, which opened the programme, began rather uncertainly with rhythmic untidiness and lapses in intonation but the remaining carols were more secure. The young Cumbrian guitarist Tom O’Neil provided an effective accompaniment and then presented three solos demonstrating his competence as a soloist.

Ariel Ramirez’s Navidad Nuestra brought part one to a close. This is a colourful work described as ‘A folk drama of the nativity based on rhythms and traditions of Hispanic America’. Each movement expresses the Christmas story in a popular style. The percussion players in the orchestra (suitably dressed in appropriate costume) clearly enjoyed themselves and helped to bring the work to life. The last movement ‘La Huida,’ describing Holy Family’s flight to escape persecution, was particularly effective as the choir followed Geoffrey Field’s excellent direction in taking the volume level down to illustrate the text.

Perhaps part two will linger more in the minds of anyone present because of our familiarity with the many carols that form the content of Vaughan Williams’ skilful ‘Fantasia on Christmas Carols’ and other carol settings which followed. Christopher Steele’s voice carried well in his solo sections and the opening cello introduction to the first carol, ‘This is the truth sent from above,’ was beautifully played by the first cellist. The choral singing sounded confident throughout with a robust contribution from the men in ‘Come all you worthy gentlemen’.

Of the remaining carols in the programme the most secure singing came in the performance of William Mathias’ ‘Sir Christèmas’ and the ubiquitous ‘Jingle Bells’.

Audience participation in four well-known carols was much enjoyed – particularly our rendition of ‘The Holly and the Ivy’ – which must have sent everyone home with a spring in their step.