Family Christmas Concert

G-Live, Guildford

Rating  * * * * *

An audience approaching 1,000 gathered at G Live in Guildford on December 15 for the Family Christmas Concert.

Conductor Jonathan Willcocks introduced and led a lively programme of seasonal favourites, which included contributions from Guildford Choral, St Catherine’s Preparatory School choir, the Southern Pro Musica Brass and soloist Alison Langer, replacing, at the last moment, soprano Anna Gillingham who was indisposed.

The audience seemed well practised in their renditions of O Come all ye Faithful and Once in Royal David’s City, just two of several carols included in the programme but it was Guildford Choral whose voices soared impressively in each of their contributions.

In the Bleak Midwinter earned loud applause, although I particularly enjoyed their unaccompanied interpretation of Lord of the Dance, using a series of complex harmonies that swelled with an effortless ease.

St Catherine’s Preparatory School choir and director of music Alexandra White were clearly firm favourites. Their first set featured young soloist Thalia Edwards along with full vocal support from the choir when offering Tell the Christmas Story, Shepherd’s Song and the enchanting Watts’ Cradle Song, each confidently selected and as confidently delivered.

Southern Pro Musica Brass offered the afternoon a firm resonance; accompanying the carols, the brass and kettle drums added intensity and focus as each verse built but it was with their soloist piece Let it Blow that saw them to particular advantage.

Soprano Alison Langer showed no hint of apprehension at her sudden booking and followed the programme as announced.

I know my redeemer liveth by Handel was well received and the ripple of applause that anticipated O Holy Night seemed to confirm Jonathan Willcocks’ comment that this clearly was a Christmas family favourite..

Organist Leon Charles and Peter White (St Catherine’s pianist) were accompanists for the afternoon.

The collection was for The Fountain Centre at the Royal Surrey County Hospital and in a brief speech by trustee Monica Simpson the need for the centre was explained.

The concert finished with a jaunty rendition of Jingle Bells and a spirited audience attempt at Hark! The herald-angels sing.

The Christmas season had certainly begun for me and I suspect for all those attending.

Jeff Thomson, Surrey Advertiser, 27 December 2013