Christmas concert

Sunday 14 December 2014
Christopher Irvin Browne

“A magical concert at Todmorden Town Hall on Sunday afternoon heralded the arrival of Christmas.”

A magical concert at Todmorden Town Hall on Sunday afternoon heralded the arrival of Christmas. Once again the separate forces of Todmorden Orchestra (conductor Nicholas Concannon Hodges) and Choral Society (conductor Antony Brannick) fused in a programme especially designed to appeal to a family audience. It was fun to see the venerable hall bursting with a youthful life, rather like being accommodated within a richly decorated musical box. Treading the fine line between the celebration of Christ’s birthday and the pleasures of earthly enjoyment is a difficult balancing act.

Tradition was strongly represented in the first part. Congregational carols gave us all a chance to participate after a sweetly sung verse of Once in Royal David’s City (performed by Sophie Bingham and Georgina Holmes). Before the well-known version of Away in a Manger, the choir rendered an alternative traditional Normandy tune of simplicity and charm. It was well judged to include at this point the elegant playing, by Lynda Robertson, of Tchaikovsky’s Melodie. A familiar selection from The Nutcracker followed, showing the orchestra’s wide range of tonal colours. Choral pieces (on a New Year theme) completed the first half: it was good to hear Britten’s accessible New Year Carol. The rousing Mathias carol Sir Christemas ended part one with a fine festive flourish.

The second part of the programme was largely a memorable arrangement for both choir and orchestra from the popular CGI film The Polar Express, created for the concert by composer / trumpet player Lawrence Killian (who had also arranged the Melodie earlier). We were certainly now in the world of popular American musical theatre. Lively, catchy rhythmic tunes dominated with When Christmas Comes to Town sung by the earlier duettists. Perhaps with the choir necessarily positioned behind the orchestra, it was not always easy to follow the busy lyrics. However, the fun was tangible with narrator Ian Ross having just the right sort of theatrical flair to keep the ‘show’ steaming ahead. A medley of Christmas favourites followed with Winter Wonderland certainly resonating with me!

The inclusiveness of this material has put this annual event at the centre of Todmorden’s seasonal celebrations. The town is lucky to be able to bring together such creativity for all to share. Many congratulations to those involved, for capturing both the excitement and significance of Christmas.