The Great Hall was ideally used in this concert, not only for The Twelve Days of Christmas, in which singers were spread round the sides of the hall to encourage audience participation. The programme was framed by FYC processing in and out while singing Lyn Williams’s Festive Alleluia, strongly rhythmical, and recalling Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols. This set the standard for the whole concert with perfect ensemble, very rich unison tone and filling the hall resplendently when later breaking into several parts.
For one who has listened to FYC more in their excellent first-rate recordings than in real life, it was privilege and joy to be present at the Farnham Youth Choirs’ Christmas concert in Farnham Maltings last Sunday, December 16th. The junior boys’ and girls’ choirs performed their own groups of songs and carols in the concert and joined FYC in John Gardners’s ever-popular, original and off-beat setting of The Holly and the Ivy. The audience was invited to join the three choirs in well-known Christmas hymns and carols, which danced along, directed by David Victor-Smith.
In the body of the programme there was a piece by Andrew Carter, Mary Walked Amid the Thorn; there was spotless intonation projecting this very expressive performance. Patrick Hadley’s little jewel I Sing of a Maiden, was the opposite of a carol to be danced – it had seamless long phrases and superb breath control projecting the timeless spirit of words and music with rich tone and intuitively unanimous shaping of the music. The last chord wanted to last for ever, but since this was at the halfway point, sadly it couldn’t.
There were many choral beauties in the singing of both junior choirs, the boys sang Do You Hear What I Hear with real tone and character and were joined by boys with changing voices who sang a baritone part, moving between melody and accompaniment with aplomb. It was pleasure to see such intent expressions on the boys’ faces and the girls were no less focussed and a pleasure to watch, too. There was the making of vocal focus and resonance at this early stage in Bob Chilcott’s This Joy.
FYC has the ability to project both simplicity and charm alongside perfectly formed performance having as a hall-mark a youthful musical passion. I congratulate the conductors David Victor-Smith and Catherine Watts, together with their sensitive accompanists Julia Freeman and Allan Beattie for producing such a fine concert. However, this wouldn’t be possible without the consistent work of Gillian Victor-Smith, Phil Dunford, their team of helpful and welcoming stewards, and on this occasion sponsors CCA Galleries.com.
Note: Chris Hand was Head of Music at Farnham College and was responsible for restarting the biennial Farnham Festival. He has been Head of Music at Highgate School and is now at Worcester Cathedral.