“A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices”
Although considered deeply unfashionable by many in the world of music, I have always had a soft spot for John Rutter. As a young choirboy (I know, right) I loved his simple arrangements of Christmas carols and the sweet sentimentality of his own compositions like ‘Candlelight Carol’ and I’ve never really fallen out of love with them despite people telling me there’s much more artistically interesting people around. And so with a visit from my aunt and older sister to mark our annual festive gathering, we took the opportunity to go to the Royal Albert Hall to see Rutter conduct his own Christmas Celebration, a gathering of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Bach Choir and Young Choristers of the Year playing a range of music, songs and carols.
Soprano Ella Taylor and treble Liam Jones, winners of the BBC Radio 2 Young Choristers of the Year 2010 brought their beautiful voices to several numbers, Rutter having written them a new song, ‘The Colours of Christmas’ but I preferred their version of his ‘Angels’ Carol’ to be honest. But on ‘O Holy Night’ and ‘Silent Night’, their harmonies were simply glorious; I would only say that I wished Jones could learn something from Taylor’s relaxed natural approach to singing, there was something a little too affected about his movements that was uncomfortable to watch at times.
One of the world’s leading choruses, The Bach Choir, provided sterling vocal support throughout: their ‘Sheep May Safely Graze’ was excellent and the two medieval pieces that they did were also good. I wasn’t too keen on the two new carols that were sung, but that wasn’t their fault and they dealt supremely well with interesting arrangements of well known staples like ‘Deck The Halls’ and ‘The Christmas Song’.
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra played beautifully throughout and were given opportunities to shine with selections like a gorgeous excerpt from Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, ‘Christians, Be Joyful’ and the evergreen Waltz from Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty. The Post Horn Galop showcased two of their cycling horn players and their charity fundraising efforts and the percussion-filled ‘Sleigh Ride’ was great fun.
And with sing-alongs to several carols, a Christmas quiz with musical clues played by the orchestra and a generous dose of festive spirit, all combined to make a lovely old-fashioned but perfectly-suited afternoon in the magnificent Royal Albert Hall.
Post Horn Galop (Herman Koenig)