Review: Scarborough Choral Society

Scarborough Choral Society
Scarborough Choral Society

The first half of the choral society’s Christmas concert was a performance of a fresh telling of the nativity story by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy with music by Sasha Johnson Manning.

The choir was joined by singers from Scarborough College and Bramcote School, trained by Becky Leeson and Martin Richardson.

First performed in Manchester by local choirs, this revised 2009 version places narrative links between the verse-repeating forms of 12 new carols that range from jaunty dancing rhythms reminding us of the carol’s dance origins, to a serene and flowing lullaby.

The musical style is largely traditional, but there are the occasional surprising modern harmonic and rhythmic touches. Particularly effective were the items with soloists accompanied by the choir; Kathryn Irwin gave a moving account of the Annunciation and Hugh Penny, at short notice, sung the baritone solos to great effect. The linking narrations were beautifully read by Martin Dodgson and Anthony Halford, with Dorothy Berry reading the poems.

This new work could become a welcome addition to the repertoire of amateur choirs.

After the interval the congregation joined in with Christmas hymns, including some from the tradition of mass singing in village pubs around Sheffield and in Derbyshire. The choir also sang a short selection of carols covering a wide range from to the 12th century to modern settings.

Although slightly depleted by illness, the choir was well balanced, and produced a good full sound, responding well to Evelyn Halford’s precise conducting. As always, Frank James accompanied on piano and organ in his usual magnificent style.