Farnham Maltings, Saturday 15th December 2018, 6pm
There was an excited buzz rising above the hubbub from a packed house for the FYC Christmas Gala. The warmth, light and welcome of the Maltings was a welcome refuge from a windswept and rain-soaked December night.
The concert began with a haunting opening solo and some beautiful harmonies during Once in Royal David’s City, followed by a sequence from Benjamin Btitten’s ‘A Ceremony of Carols’, during which the Youth Choir exhibited great blended tones; dramatic flourishes; clear articulation; and wonderful control of the down note at the end of the first piece. The closing Deo Gracias was a particular joy.
The Training Choir took to the stage next. Their singing was lovely and the foot stomping during Amani Utupe was perfectly syncopated. It was delightful to see every individual following their choir director’s lead with such intensity throughout Orange and Yellow and Brown. There was Christmas magic in seeing their upturned faces reflecting the stage lights so brightly as the lyrics of Walking in the Air echoed around the room with such clarity.
The Junior Choir also opened with some dramatic Benjamin Britten pieces before moving on to Hushabye Mountain. Their voices carried this peerless tune beautifully, while their animated faces reflected the sentiment of the lyrics delightfully.
When the Youth Choir returned it was to sing Joubert’s Torches - with exact emphasis on all the appropriate stresses. Rutter’s Star Carol had an uplifting brightness and In Dulci Jubilowas hauntingly lovely – blended tones, great enunciation and articulation and a sense of awe-filled sacred worship, entirely appropriate for a carol which I’ve since discovered translates as Sweet Rejoicing. Jolliffe’s On This Day was similarly joyful.
The evening culminated in the three choirs combining for The Holly and the Ivy – with the parts sung beautifully; the definition of the echo kept crisp; and the harmonies a delight - before leading a crowd-pleasing rendition of Twelve Days of Christmas – featuring some very enthusiastic participation from various sections of the highly appreciative audience.
This was a wonderful start to the Christmas season for an audience of all ages. Tom (14) from the group seated beside me was clearly dismayed that the concert was over – “Oh. Is that it?” David (42) had most enjoyed the closing 12 Days of Christmas and Ceremony of Carols from near the beginning, but when Sheila (73) was asked for her highlights she could only respond “to be honest, all of it. I thoroughly enjoyed everything.”
Review by David Fowler