8 December 2017

This year’s Christmas concerts took place over two consecutive evenings in the School’s Amey Theatre, and were devised to give nine of the School’s choirs, bands and orchestras a platform to perform their work this term.

We started with the new recruits – the 60 boys of the First Year in a choir in their first ever Abingdon performance and under the direction of Assistant Director of Music, John Cotton. They delighted their parents with lusty singing of two seasonal songs – Riu Riu Chiu, a medieval Spanish song, and Santa Claus is Coming to Town, with percussionist, Jack Cabell, providing some very suitable rhythmic links on the drum. Chamber Orchestra was next with Warlock’s timeless Capriol Suite.

Gospel Choir, directed by Helen Wenham, continued with two evocative arrangements, the spiritual, Go Tell it On the Mountain and the Marvin Gaye classic, Ain’t no Mountain High Enough which they sang with their customary zeal and enjoyment. A change of style was soon apparent in Mr Cotton’s Joint Chamber Choir – Bob Chilcott’s arrangement of the traditional Shaker song, The Gift to be Simple and his own arrangement of Christmas and other well-known themes in Wintertime.

Big Band brought the first half to an end with three ambitious tunes – Train Shuffle, I Put a Spell on You (vocalist, David Bicarregui) and Cold Duck Time – and, as always, the performances were suitably exuberant and full of fun.

After the interval, Andy Townsend’s Brass Band played a wonderfully crisp and disciplined performance of Alford’s march, On the Quarterdeck followed by the Wind Band’s performance of the epic Queen chart-topper, Bohemian Rhapsody, which took many a parent on a trip down memory lane to the early 1970s.

The orchestras closed the concert this year. Second Orchestra were in fine form in Verdi’s March from Aida, a new trumpet section, bolstered by the coaching of Mr Townsend, singing out that famous operatic tune. A seasonal favourite followed with Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride, complete with horse whinnying from the trumpets and a whip from the percussion.

With First Orchestra we heard flautist, Will Lam, in Cécile Chaminade’s Concertino, played from memory and real professionalism. This was a richly lyrical and subtle performance from this distinguished player, now in his final year. Finally, we heard Elgar’s at times exciting and noble Pomp and Circumstance March No 1, a work that gives great opportunities for all sections of the orchestra. Everyone enjoyed the final moment – a congregational performance of the carol, Unto Us is Born a Son.

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