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Choir School to Cardiff Metropolitan Cathedral

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Cathedral Choir Christmas Concert

This December, Cardiff Metropolitan Cathedral Choir performed its 33rd annual Christmas concert at St David’s Hall, joined by two outstanding pianists and a chamber orchestra of 18 instrumentalists from St John’s College.

The choir performed a lovely programme of well-known favourites such as The Holly and the Ivy and Dr David Neville’s sophisticated arrangement of Silent Night alongside an equally joyful selection of less familiar repertoire. Among the most striking was Francis Poulenc’s Videntes stellam which evokes a placid and starlit night, as the Magi follow the star with burgeoning excitement. The music reaches a rich climax as the Three Kings enter the stable and present their gifts, and Poulenc treats us to a remarkably imaginative and mysterious chord progression to present the final refrain “Seeing the star”.

Each half of the concert provided opportunities for impressive piano solos. Firstly, Menglin Li, 13 and a violinist in the instrumental ensemble, performed Haydn’s Sonata in D Major with sparkling finesse, precision and maturity. In the second portion of the concert, Ashleigh Patrick, 17, a chorister and also a string player in the instrumental ensemble, performed Debussy’s Clair de lune with stunning phrasing and dynamic control. She produced a rich array of colours and exquisitely beautiful tone from the hall’s Steinway to give the audience a tender glimpse of moonlight. For the last four pieces, 18 of the school’s instrumentalists performed orchestrations by John Rutter and the late Sir David Willcocks, and this provided a splendid opportunity to pay tribute to the man whose arrangements, broadcasts and recordings of carols have for many symbolised the sound of Christmas during the last fifty years or so: Sir David Willcocks passed away in September at the age of 95, but during his seventeen years as Director of Music and Organist of King’s College Cambridge, his Christmas Eve broadcasts established the choir’s reputation across the world, and even to this day the famous broadcast of Nine Lessons and Carols continues to attract a reputed audience of 180 million via the BBC World Service. This owes in large part to the legacy of Sir David Willcocks, and the Metropolitan Cathedral Choir’s performance of Sussex Carol at St David’s Hall in December brought the concert to a splendid climax in joyful celebration and tribute to this great man and musician.

1 December 2015

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