Christmas concerts return to Chichester Festival Theatre

A popular Chichester tradition resumes with the return of the week of Christmas concerts at Chichester Festival Theatre (December 7-12).


The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines and Chichester Cathedral Choir combine for an evening of festive fun, promising a special programme of Christmas classics, songs from stage and screen and sing-a-long carols for the whole family to enjoy.

The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines will be conducted by Captain Ian Davis, and Chichester Cathedral Choir will be directed by Charles Harrison, Chichester Cathedral organist, who is looking forward to bringing the Cathedral Choir to a wider audience: “It’s a great opportunity to reach out to our community and to a lot of people that might not usually get the chance to hear the cathedral choir.”

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The Christmas series was suspended during the Festival Theatre’s rebuilding programme and didn’t run last year because the summer/autumn season was extended through into December. Charles is looking forward to his second Christmas in Chichester – and his first experience of the Christmas series: “I know the concerts have been incredibly popular in the past,” Charles says. “The combined total audience during the week will be thousands.The choir is not worried about big audiences. The challenge really is that the festival theatre has got a very different acoustic to what we are used to in the cathedral. It will be drier and perhaps a little bit more critical. A warm resonant acoustic can enhance the sound you are hearing, and we are not going to get the benefit of that in the festival theatre. It will be a different experience. We may need to sharpen things a little.”


And inevitably audiences play their part in shaping acoustics further: “Acoustics can change when venues fill with people. In some ways, you can predict what the changes are going to be; we can think about the tempi we are using for pieces. It may be that we have to take some of our music a little bit more quickly.. but in other places we may need to slow down to make sure that the legato is there to compensate for the lack of echo.”

At times the choir will be performing with the Royal Marines; at times, it will be singing alone. In the second half of the evening, the men of the choir will perform as Close Company.

“We have been given quite a free hand in what we are doing. I have been in touch with the bandmaster and we have discussed our musical choices. We think that between us we have got a good variety of moods and styles that combine to make a good, varied programme.”

One of the works the Cathedral will offer will be What Sweeter Music by John Rutter: “Rutter writes wonderful tunes. He is probably the world’s most successful living composer. He knows how to write for choirs. He knows how to write music that people love listening to. It’s very hard to get through Christmas without hearing something by Rutter; and some people will hear something over Christmas by Rutter without realising it is by him. Rutter is almost an essential ingredient to Christmas!”

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