Chichester's Christmas Concerts - fabulous festive fun and history too

Christmas Concerts, Chichester Festival Theatre, until December 11.

The Band of Her Majesty's Royal Marines Collingwood
The Band of Her Majesty's Royal Marines Collingwood

Chichester Cathedral Choir were exquisite tonight. Under the superb leadership of Charles Harrison, organist and master of the choristers, they always are, offering the perfect mix of skill, beauty and control.

But tonight there was something else – a sense of history. With the news today that from the start of the next academic year (September 2022), girls as well as boys will be able to audition for places in the choir, it was difficult not to ponder the fact that presumably this is the last Christmas we will be seeing the choir as they have been seen for hundreds of years.

The move feels absolutely right and proper; and it is sure to signal a very exciting new chapter in a tale which goes back centuries. But this final festive sight of the choir as they are seems precious already.

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    And there was history too on the part of The Band of Her Majesty's Royal Marines Collingwood, always the other half of Chichester’s Christmas treat.

    For the first time on the Chichester stage (at least that I can remember), they were conducted by a woman, WO2 Hannah Trudgeon. And it was great to see – a terrific musician sharing conducting honours with Captain Samuel Hairsine.

    It was another special element in an important night: important that it was happening at all after all the barrenness of recent times. How lovely it was simply to be back – and the programme lived up to expectations, with the performers complemented in the second half by the Cathedral Choir’s lay vicars in their Close Company alter ego.

    Difficult to pick highlights, but Close Company’s Silent Night was heavenly; the band especially shone with Minor Alterations and 100% Christmas (which came with a great story behind the title). As for the choir, well, no, impossible to pick a highlight. They were brilliant.

    Adding to the night, the stage was a picture with its huge Christmas trees; and the lighting was great. Christmas, bring it on!