December 2021

Skipton Choral Society winter concert

ON a dark, wet, cold December evening the Skipton Choral Society, under the direction of Robert Webb, lightened the spirits of the capacity audience with a gloriously diverse programme of Christmas music. Compositions from the 14th to the 21st century were performed.

Excerpts from Handel’s Messiah were mixed with a variety of well known Christmas carols and some lesser known Christmas pieces. It was a joy to hear the traditional carols sung well and with such clear annunciation by the choir. The sopranos soared with the wonderful descants arranged by David Wilcox.

The Messiah choruses were interspersed throughout the programme. The first chorus ‘And the Glory of the Lord’ had a slightly tentative start but as confidence grew there were some, good attacking entries from all parts and the chorus became impressive. There is a good balance of voices in this chorus. Usually, recruiting men for choral societies is a problem but obviously not at Skipton! The tricky choruses, with many semi quaver runs, ‘And he shall purify’ and ‘For unto us a child is born’ were negotiated with confidence. Glory to God was simply glorious. More venom however was required for ‘He trusted in God’. It was rather polite!

The two excellent soloists did us proud: Richard Cressall’s rich and resonant bass did full justice to the two Recitatives and the Air from Messiah in the first part of the concert. ‘Why do the nations’, in the second half, was compelling, emphatically sung giving full meaning to past and indeed to present events. Jennifer Webb was sublime. She brought the text of her first recitatives alive; she has a beautiful voice and sings with such joy and conviction. Special mention must go to the two members of the choir- Rosie Corner whose solo in the Chilcott arrangement of ‘Away in a Manger’ was enchanting and Michael Cox who was part of the quartet which included the soloists and the conductor. They sang Tchaikovsky’s Crown of Roses and did full justice to this beautiful song.

Praetorius, Howells, and a lovely adaption by Kenneth Leighton of ‘Lully Lulla, thou little tiny child,’ were featured. The choir ably supported the soprano soloist in this piece. No Christmas concert can be held without an offering by John Rutter and his Mary’s Lullaby was sensitively sung. Based on a poem by James Agee, Morten Lauridsen’s ‘Sure on this Shining Night’ has become one of the composer’s most recognized choral works. This is a difficult piece in which to achieve clarity of text and the choir did not always manage this.

The choir were well served by their accompanists, organist Charles Dobson, piano accompanist, Jerry Davies and by the string quartet, Louise Jones, Alison Morley, Sarah Evans and Ian McGavin.

The concert ended with a heartfelt rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus with the addition of the soloists and with a prominent trumpet part played by the conductor. Skipton Choral Society is indeed fortunate to have a musical director who is so versatile and possesses so many talents. Robert Webb not only sang and played but encouraged and directed the choir to perform a most enjoyable concert.

The audience went out into the cold night warmed and musically uplifted.

The next performance of Skipton Choral Society will be Stainer’s Crucifixion and Sander’s Reproaches in April.

Reviewed by Val Middleton