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CLASSIKON A wonderful celebration of superb singing by The Song Company

This we did in the beautiful setting of St. Francis of Assisi in Paddington. “Hark!’ was a wonderful celebration of superb singing by The Song Company with recitation of some quirky poetry, plus the opportunity to join in with the singing of popular carols.

The program was split into three sections: Advent, Christmas Night and Christmas Day, with appropriate carols, songs and poetry. Amy Moore (co-artistic director, conducting from within the choir) introduced the evening’s program, saying how she loved “Nine Lessons and Carols”, but that tonight they will perform Carols and Poetry instead.

They began with Adam lay Ybounden, by contemporary composer Matthew Martin. The words were from the15th century but the sound was mysterious and modern, with subtle dissonances underpinned by Andrew O’Connor’s resounding deep bass.

With Amy subtly conducting, there was amiable rapport between the singers. Many of the composers were contemporary, with carols such as In Advent Heat by Australian Peter Campbell displaying close, jazzy harmonies, which sounded like Australian summer heat. Other songs/carols, such as William Walton’s All this Time, were sheer joy to hear as well as to see in the singers’ faces.

The quirky poems by U.A Fanthorpe were read out at appropriate times, BCAD being the first, read out in sonorous tones by Andrew O’Connor – all about the moment between BC and AC.

The first section (ADVENT) ended with the audience joining The Song Company singing the David Willcocks arrangement of Oh Come all ye Faithful with its glorious descant.

The next works dealt with CHRISTMAS NIGHT and the birth of a baby that was Jesus. Of a Rose by Cecilia McDowall was joyful and bouncy, with Renaissance overtones in the “hallelujas”.This was followed by the delightful poem Little Tree by E.E. Cummings, read out by Susannah Lawergren in her pleasantly precise voice. She sang a beautiful, sweet solo in the following lullaby, Lully Lulla. thou little tiny child, Kenneth Leighton’s arrangement of the Coventry Carol. A more rhythmic carol followed – Susanni by Sir Richard Rodney Bennet, who wrote this for St Matthews Church in Northampton in 1967.

Andrew then read a poem The Oxen by Thomas Hardy, which was an endearing introduction to the next carol, Away in a Manger.

This was a refreshingly fresh arrangement by Michael Leighton Jones, using modern harmonies. There were heartfelt solos by Hannah Fraser and Louis Hurley.

Joseph, lieber Joseph mein originated as a lullaby in a Mystery Play in Leibzig. Hieronymus Praetorius took this simple tune (that I sang at the age of six as Mary in a Christmas play) and embellished it into a series of intricate harmonies that The Song Company tackled with ease.

We were then treated to another poem by U.A Fanthorpe: Reindeer Report read out by Hayden Barrington. The light-hearted feeling was maintained with the all-Australian Christmas carol The Three Drovers by William G. James. The Song Company sang this in the joyful manner it was intended.

They then sang an interesting arrangement of Silent Night, starting with alto Stephanie Dillon, accompanied by harmonising sopranos. Timothy Reynolds and the male voices came in with a key change. The whole ensemble the sang luscious harmonies, followed by another key change and a brilliant finale.

The CHRISTMAS DAY section began with the polyphonic Hodie Christus natus est by Sweelinck from the late 16th Century, followed by John Rutter’s arrangement of the Wexford Carol. Andrew O’Connor, Louis Hurley and Hayden Barrington each excelled in their solos. 

Louis Hurley read Christmas Day, a poem by Roy Fuller. They all sang Ding Dong! Merrily on High with joyful energy.

Hayden Barrington donned a Santa hat and announced that he had a present for us….. I have heard up-beat versions of Jingle Bells before, but The Song Company took this to another level with their rendition of Ben Parry’s arrangement! The Song Company’s sense of syncopated rhythm and jazzy harmony gave this a rich, new life.

We then all joyfully sang Hark! the Herald Angels Sing, again with the David Willcocks descant. The wonderful acoustics of the St. Francis of Assisi Church gave the singing a special depth and sparkle.

It was a great experience and I can now say that I have sung with The Song Company! (Heidi Hereth)

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