GUISBOROUGH Choral Society held its annual Christmas Concert at the Guisborough Methodist Church.

Always a popular event at Christmas, the choir appealed to traditional and modern values for Christmas music under the direction of their director and conductor Rebecca Johnson. For a change from the Salvation Army Band this year, the music was played by the Kildale String Quartet with an ensemble orchestra, including Sarah Paterson on the Harp and Gabrielle Caswell on the Flute. Helen Kirk was the accompanist.

The first part of the concert featured classical works by Ralph Vaughan Williams, Francis Poulenc and Bob Chilcott, whereas the second part was a festive mix of audience and choir carols and Christmas classics.

The concert started with Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on Christmas Carols, written in 1912 for baritone, chorus and orchestra, largely based on English carols such as the Sussex carol. Next were Quatre Motets pour le temps de Noel by Francis Poulenc, with works depicting four scenes from the Nativity story, ranging from the awe and mystery of Christ’s birth, the serene starlit night of the Magi to the joyful Gloria in Excelsis Deo. Both opening pieces were sung with great skill by the choir, which the audience much appreciated.

The choir then took a break whilst the Kildale Quartet played two pieces by Jean Sibelius, the Andante Festiva and a Swedish Folk Song. Up to the interval, the choir sang On Christmas Night, a collection of eight pieces by Bob Chilcott, which combined tradition and invention, comforting and reflective but also jubilant, swinging and a little folksy. Chilcott’s works are said to be inspired by folk songs, Gregorian chant, Anglican hymns, spirituals and jazz, and gospel and African music.

After the interval and refreshments, served by members of Guisborough St Vincent de Paul Society, the choir alternated between not so well-known carols, and audience participation in traditional favourite carols, such as Silent Night, Away in a Manger, Once in Royal David’s City, Good King Wenceslas and others. In between, the audience heard from harpist Sarah Paterson and flautist Gabrielle Caswell with works by Bizet, Gabriel Faure, Bernard Andres and Camille Saint-Saens.

Sarah Paterson is an accomplished harpist and has given recitals throughout the region. She even paused to explain the mechanics of the harp and how it influenced the music. In this second half, the audience heard from vocal soloists, Alison Donnelly and Paul Burt, who together with the instrumental soloists, painted a unique aspect of the concert.

The performance climaxed with the choir, singers, soloists and orchestra in I Wish You Christmas by John Rutter, which left the audience with that warm feeling that Christmas was quite near. It was quite a change from previous years but the programme was varied and seemed to evoke appreciation by the audience, who roundly applauded the choir and musicians, conductor and accompanist at the end.