REVIEW: Mid Sussex Choir proves that Bob Chilcott does mix well with Handel

Mid Sussex Choir under the direction of Andrew Sutton

Christmas Concert, Mid Sussex Choir, St Wilfrid’s Church, Haywards Heath, Saturday, December 16

On the surface, Bob Chilcott plus Handel may not seem a good mix for a concert, but Mid Sussex Choir proved that works by those two composers can provide the basis for an entertaining and varied evening.

The choir’s Christmas Concert included choruses from Handel’s Messiah and a complete work by Bob Chilcott – On Christmas Night.

One spectator reported: “I have heard nothing but praise from the audience.

“Many people told me that they thoroughly enjoyed the programme.”

Andrew Sutton, musical director of the choir, explained that Bob Chilcott once sung with The King’s Singers and is now one of the country’s foremost composers and arrangers of choral music.

On Christmas Night was first performed in 2010. It combines some familiar tunes and words (such as O little town, Adam lay ybounden) with some less familiar words, new tunes and fresh arrangements. There is a lovely mixture of simplicity and highly complex rhythms, with close chord structures.

All the solos during the concert were performed by choir members.

Soprano soloist Katharine Collett provided beautiful renditions of Ave Maria and O Holy Night.

In the Chilcott work, there were solos by Naomi McCaffrey, Valerie Stevenson and Alan Brock, with further variety added by duets and small groups of singers including Cynthia Davies, Heather Biggs, Janet Barnes, David Barnes and Philip Ladd.

Philip stepped into that role as a late replacement for John Robin, whose voice had succumbed to a virus.

As the concert had begun with the choir singing a short piece composed by the same Philip Ladd – Et Incarnatus Est – he contributed significantly to the evening’s entertainment!

The four Messiah choruses required and received strong performances from the choir.

The last of the four was the Hallelujah chorus, for which the audience followed the tradition of standing throughout.

As well as the works described above, the concert featured Christmas carols, some sung by the choir alone and some familiar ones where audience participation was encouraged.

Accompaniment was provided by Phillip Sear on the piano and Neil Matthews on the organ.

The retiring collection raised nearly £140 in aid of Chestnut Tree House and the choir’s own charity.

The choir’s next series of rehearsals begins on Wednesday, January 10, at the Haywards Heath Methodist Church, in preparation for a Songs from the Musicals Concert on April 28 at the same venue.

More information is available from www.midsussexchoir.org.uk.

Prepared by David Waterhouse, chairman of Mid Sussex Choir

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