Christmas concert

Saturday 16 December 2012
Trevor Driver

“A musical hamper full of festive fare.”

It is sometimes said that nostalgia is not what it used to be, but at Christmas time it is as good as ever because the memories and traditions of our childhood continue in most cases through our parentage and grand-parentage. We get our excitement at this time in many ways and for different reasons but well loved Christmas music and carols continue to endure and endear.

It was expected that Todmorden Orchestra and Todmorden Choral Society would provide us with a musical hamper full of festive fare in last Sunday’s performance in the Town Hall. It was slightly disappointing to find no young voices on offer but enough was in there for a satisfying feast. As Semprini used to say there were “old ones, new ones, loved ones and neglected ones” and we are not talking about members of the choir.

The first announcement was that Nicholas Connanon Hodges was indisposed and Christopher Irvin would take his place as conductor of the orchestra at very short notice. The players, responding to his bidding with great concentration, expertly overcame the problems that such a situation can cause.

Settling in with a delightful version of We Three Kings arranged by, and trumpet solo by, Lawrence Killian, we then heard Tales from the Vienna Woods where the conductor was able to give a modest impression of a left-handed Andre Rieu, the popular Strauss interpreter. The next piece of music was the conductor’s own Southwell Sleigh Ride when the audience was invited to shake, rattle and roll, at the appropriate moment, anything that might sound like sleigh bells.

In the second half of the performance the orchestra played excerpts from the Nutcracker Suite by Tchaikovsky and this gave different sections a chance to demonstrate their undoubted talents. All were excellent and the response of the audience indicated their appreciation. Christopher Irvin deserves the highest praise for his ability to step in at short notice, direct the orchestra through some far from easy music and control everyone in the carol singing. All with a smile on his face. His task was made easier by the composed competence of leader Andrew Rostron.

It might be interesting to find out what the choir had to drink during the interval because they were much more impressive in the second half of the performance. In the first half Antony Brannick conducted five pieces including The Holly and the Ivy and Christmas is Coming and then followed with the Hallelujah chorus from Handel’s Messiah. Although that chorus is always uplifting it is less inspirational as a single item.

The second half started with another chorus from Messiah, For Unto Us a Child is Born and this was excellent. The nativity theme continued with more impressive singing in music by John Rutter and John Joubert. Preferences are always subjective but I just thought O Men from the Fields by Arnold Cooke was outstanding.