REVIEW: The Farrant Singers

IT’S perhaps all too easy at this time of year for choirs to put on a seasonal concert of miscellaneous diverse carols and give the whole extravaganza some fluffy catch-all Yuletide title.

Not so for the Farrant Singers.

Over the years this local choir has established a reputation for concert programmes that are innovative, well thought out and competently performed.

Their latest Christmas offering was no exception.

For starters, the recent death of the composer John Tavener moved the choir to open with a performance of his much loved carol The Lamb.

Although its writing seems simple, its technical demands (not least intonation) are considerable. This was a fitting tribute to a remarkable and unique composer, the like of which we’re unlikely to see again.

Two substantial seasonal works followed – In Terra Pax by Gerald Finzi, and Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on Christmas Carols, accompanied (with musical understanding) by a small string orchestra.

Finzi’s piece is an evocative and lush musical portrayal of the first Christmas Eve – the shepherds keeping watch, angels hovering in the sky, and isn’t without its dramatic moments. This was an engaging performance from all concerned, with crystal-clear singing from soloists Alistair Watson (baritone) and Eloise Irving (soprano).

Under its director Andrew Mackay, the choir has continued to develop a mellow and balanced tone.

With seasonal works by Palestrina, Sweelinck, Kenneth Leighton and William Walton, interspersed with audience participation in some old favourites, this was a thoughtfully assembled carol-fest.

The audience-only verses were heartily performed.

STUART ROBINSON

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