This was the fourth time that John Rutter, the UK’s pre-eminent choral composer and conductor, and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra had invited the Farnham choir to take part. It was an all-day marathon for the choir youngsters, starting with a three hour morning rehearsal in the concert hall alongside the orchestra and the professional Choir of London.
The concert itself began with soprano soloist Elin Manahan Thomas singing the first verse of Once in Royal David's City. The second verse was sung by the Farnham Youth Choir, in candlelit procession across the arena and on to the stage. Welcoming the performers, John Rutter introduced the young Farnham singers to the audience, describing his admiration for their work and handing over to their Director, David Victor-Smith, to take them through a set of three carols accompanied by the RPO's harpist Suzy Willison-Kawalee.
A hallmark of these concerts is audience participation that intersperses choir items, solo songs and orchestral pieces. On this occasion, after performances by the two choirs of the Christmas sections of Handel's Messiah, the audience were invited by John Rutter to 'follow the dots' in their programmes and join in to give a rousing performance of the famous Hallelujah Chorus.
The second half of the concert contained a mixture of orchestral, solo and choral items. He led Farnham Youth Choir through his Angels' Carol, the beautiful setting of Silent Night and John Gardner's boisterous setting of The Holly and the Ivy - to orchestral accompaniment. The audience were again able to contribute, with traditional carols O Come all ye Faithful and Hark the Herald and a very 'physical' version of We wish you a merry Christmas - which Farnham Youth Choir had the job of demonstrating to the audience.
John Rutter has booked the choir to record in April 2008 a CD along similar lines. This will also involve the RPO and John Rutter's own choir, the Cambridge Singers.
Farnham Youth Choir performed in December at the Royal Albert Hall, London, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at a charity event in aid of Leonard Cheshire Disability. John Rutter’s Christmas Celebration is so popular that even the 6,000 seats in the Hall are not enough to satisfy demand, resulting in performances in both the afternoon and evening. Around 11,000 people had travelled from all parts of the country for this favourite event.