Review of the Christmas Concert by Bobby McQuillan (former HOD)

One of the great things about the Carol Concert is the huge numbers of pupils involved in choirs, wind band and orchestra, some double and triple-jobbing in the different groups and also as soloists and accompanists.

The Wind Band set the scene with some warm toned performances of White Christmas and Highlights from Frozen. The orchestra’s choices for the evening were challenging, and the challenges were met with style and grace. The flute playing in ‘Toy Flutes’ was excellent and the ‘Overture to the Marriage of Figaro’ was exciting. Variety of orchestration was to the fore in ‘Bells of Christmas’ including glissandi and effective percussion. The String Group’s control of pizzicato was good and the arrangement of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (Bach) worked well.

There is no point in choosing difficult pieces unless they are performed well and the Senior Choir negotiated a foreign language and complicated key changes effortlessly in ‘Stille Nacht’ and ‘Deck the Hall.’ It is good to see so many tenors and basses in the senior choir.

The Chamber Choir performed Sweelinck’s joyful ‘Hodie Christus Natus Est’ , ‘A Spotless Rose’(Howells) and (a new composition for me), ‘Seal Lullaby’ (Whitacre). All were sung with excellent tonal contrast and confidence. David Loughridge was an able soloist in ‘A Spotless Rose’.

The Junior Choir sang two contrasting carols – ‘The Angel’s Carol’ by Rutter and the syncopated ‘Hush, Hear the Angels Sing’. Both were sung with confidence and good tone, with an excellent top note at the end of ‘The Angel’s Carol’.
The Intermediate Choir sang with a pure tone and rhythmic vitality. It is good to hear new music as well as the old favourites and this they certainly did with ‘Who on Earth Could Know’. Well done, Mrs Culbertson.

Choral highlights, for me, were provided by the combined choirs singing ‘O Holy Night’ and the ‘Hallelujah’ Chorus – real spine-tingling moments.

We in the audience had our part to play, joining in the well-loved carols, with fine solo singing from the Head Boy (Christopher McLean) and Deputy Head Girl (Sarah Huey) in Good King Wenceslas. I thought we should have given them a round of applause. Peter Williamson, Chelsie McKendry and Suzanne Smyth read appropriate Christmas poetry and prose by Patrick Kavanagh and Edgar Guest.

Accompanists for the choral pieces were Thomas Hancock, Ruth Taggart, Lois Barr, Cait Kirkpatrick and Sarah Hodges, all performing their duties flawlessly, a great help to the choir conductors.

The final musical item was the Traditional Group’s rousing Celtic Christmas. Mr Skelton expressed thanks to all those involved – business management, lighting and house management, singers, soloists, accompanists, players and, of course, Mrs Montgomery and Mr McGavock, only just recovering from ‘Phantom of the Opera’. Their stamina is remarkable.

This is the second year the Carol Concert has had a repeat performance, testimony to the popularity of this event in the school calendar.