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Candlelight Christmas Concert 2011

Haverfordwest Ladies Choir performed their Candlelight Christmas Concert in St. Mary's Church on Saturday 10th December, under the baton of Nancy Mann, and with the accompaniment of Gerald Nicholas. They raised over £200 towards the Restoration Appeal.


The church had been charmingly decorated with flowers by chorister Margaret Davies, and the atmosphere and its wonderful acoustics seemed to bring the best out of the choir and their guest soloist, flautist Susan Brown, whose performances, like those of the choir, had a delightful lightness of touch and clarity of phrasing.

The concert began with one of a series of poetry readings which were threaded through the concert's fabric, and all were resonant, clear and measured. Frances Oates' reading of a Robert Herrick poem led on to Handel's "Joy to the world" and this classical element continued through much of the choir's first set, in which we also heard Berlioz, and Marian Graceson read a poem by the hymnologist Isaac Watts. The choir presented these items with a serenity which reached an almost ethereal quality during Chilcott's "So fair and bright".

The classical tone continued when Susan Brown played the "Sonata in b minor" by the 18th century composer John Ranish, a piece which, accompanied by Nancy Mann's harpsichord sound, might have come straight from the drawing rooms of Jane Austen.

The second set, led into by Gyll Nisbet's reading of a 15th century poem, offered several images of thorn and blood and gave us two traditional carols, one of which, the Cambridge composer John Rutter's haunting arrangement of "He is born the divine Christ child", featured Carol Mayhew and Inka Lesinska on recorders.

Susan Brown's second piece was the Suite in A by C. Armstrong Gibbs. Gibbs, who studied with Charles Wood and Ralph Vaughan Williams, was among the most tuneful of early 20th century composers and this was a very melodic piece which seemed to act as a kind of hinge and to lead us in to the evening's second half, in which the carols and the Christmas sounds became warmer and sweeter.

Linda Fowler read a lullaby by the Victorian poet John Addington Symonds, and this ushered in a set full of songs like "The Coventry carol", with flute by Susan Brown, and "Cantique de Noel", which featured a lovely soprano solo by Carol Mayhew.

Susan Brown's playing of two Christmas arrangements by Pam Wedgwood led to one of the evening's most keenly anticipated moments, Gladys Morris' hilarious rendering of Gordon Snell's poem, "The lament of the ostrich' and to two stirring final items by this choir, T. Gwynn Jones' "Ring out, sweet bells", and the perennial favourite, "The twelve days of Christmas". The evening ended with mince pies and mulled wine.

Robert Nisbet