Christmas at home and abroad

It's been a very busy Christmas period, with performances in Italy and Germany, as well as concerts in the UK, including Handel's Messiah.

With Christmas just around the corner, the choir was well prepared for the busy month of festive concerts and services ahead. We enjoyed preparing for our semi-staged performance of Handel’s Messiah in Bristol by performing extracts from it in Midweek Music, our lunchtime concert at the beginning of the month. With excellent solo performances from many of our choral scholars, the following performance at St George’s, Bristol, was very well received. The audience were totally immersed with our variety of staging and lighting, and the unique atmosphere created by the Bristol Ensemble made for a truly special evening.

The next week, the choir travelled into central London to perform at the stunning Apsley House. Including repertoire from Whitacre’s gorgeous The Seal Lullaby to Frederic Austin and Ian Humphris’ comical take on the Twelve Days of Christmas, the audience were thrown right into December with a good dose of Christmas Spirit! Just a few days later, we travelled up to Oxfordshire to sing at Raymond Blanc’s gourmet restaurant, Le Manoir. We enjoyed singing carols in the beautiful venue including the well- and less-known, interspersed by magical readings of Christmas stories. Afterwards we were incredibly grateful to enjoy being served food by the fantastic chefs at Le Manoir, along with some champagne to accompany the festivities!

Back at College, we took our places back in the stalls, and gave two splendid evenings of our renowned Lessons and Carols service. With a brilliant mix of sacred and secular readings, the choir performed some of our best repertoire, featuring work from Ben Parry, Ola Gjeilo and a moving rendition of Es ist ein Ros Entsprungen by Sandström — a particular highlight for many of the audience. The next evening we concluded our busy week (and term) with our Christmas “Extravangza”. We sang all of our favourite Christmas repertoire in one fantastic concert, only made complete by a cameo by Father Christmas, a.k.a. our very own Rupert Gough.

The next morning, the choir set off bright and early to make our way to Treviso, Italy, for a whistle-stop tour and concert. We arrived in a stunning modernised chapel, and really made use of the fantastic acoustic of the building. A particular highlight for many was the small ensemble performance of O Nata Lux, the hauntingly beautiful five-part work by Thomas Tallis. Following two curtain calls and an evening of delicious pizza and fine wine, we flew back to London early the next morning to prepare for a Mid-Advent carol service at St. Bartholomew-the-Great later in the evening. This service revolved around the traditional “O Antiphons”, with each being sung from a different part of the church, creating a really atmospheric environment.

We arose early the next morning, joined by some alumni, to fly off to our second foreign destination of the week, Schwäbisch Hall, a small town near Stuttgart. On the way to our hotel, looking out of the coach window, it was often easy to forget we were still in the 21st Century. The next morning we browsed around authentic Christmas Markets, enjoying the beautiful festive atmosphere, before heading into the enormous church, St Michael’s, we would be performing in later that night. When we processed out onto the altar to sing, we were struck by the vast number of audience members, which we were later informed was about 1800 people! We gave a brilliant concert, and following our encore of Jingle Bells, the stewards at the church gave us each a cuddly toy fox as a thank you. The next morning, we said farewell to each other, and headed our separate ways back home, to spend the rest of Christmas with our families.

December was a fantastic month for the choir, full of festivity and some of the most magical moments of the year. We can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2019!