Reported in the Wiltshire Times:

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Christmas is here at last!

On Saturday 12th December, in the warmth of the United Reform Church, the society, under its enthusiastic musical director Ruth McKibbin, gave an exceptional concert of music fit for the festive season. The first half began with dramatic music from the orchestra, led by Michelle Falcon, and the confidence of the mixed choir as they introduced Britten's Saint Nicholas to a quickly captivated audience. A mention here must go to the orchestra who complemented the choir extremely well throughout the whole evening. Soloists Philip Styles and young Hamish Barry both shone during the second movement of this work with assured and beautiful performances and their joyous sounds continued throughout the duration of the evening as other solos were performed. Although there were one or two moments throughout the work where the choir sounded a little unsure, the majority of the Britten was sung with a great sense of unity. A great effort was made by all throughout and especially in the more difficult sections. It was interesting to see how the choir would perform under the leadership of two conductors at times, as Deputy Conductor, John Lauder, helped to lead those singing in the gallery, but they responded marvellously and kept a strong sound. A special mention should go out to the young Trebles from St Laurence School, who were also up in the gallery and made a wonderful addition to the sound that was being produced. During this work there were two hymns, which was a chance for audience participation and the audience rose to their feet and added to the enjoyable atmosphere that had already been created within the church. The choir led us into the interval with a strong ending of the work and the 'Death of Nicholas'. The Britten is never easy to sing, but the choir gave a very commendable and assured performance, with the added effect of the split choir.

The second half was full of Christmas and merriment, as it was opened with a bright, happy and dynamically brilliant performance of Joy to the World, which was then cleverly and very well contrasted with the gentle sounds of Williamsons This Christmas Night. Again this half of the concert gave the audience chances to participate and they did so with gusto in the three congregational carols. There was a true sense of community and Christmas spirit during these three pieces and it was lovely to hear the descant line from the Soprano section floating over the top of the well-known melodies. The highlight of the evening though was Adams' O Holy Night. It was a simply stunning performance with great dynamic contrast, a well-balanced sound and it even brought a tear to the eye. The concert was brought to a fitting end with Warrell's Merry Christmas. Under Ruth's excellent and encouraging direction it is clear to see and hear that the choir are coming on in leaps and bounds, with a dramatically improved sound. It will be very exciting to see how they pull off Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle in their next concert on May 14th, 2016, it's certainly a date for the diary!
Hayley Wheeler

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