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Candlelight Christmas Concert 2012

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Haverfordwest Ladies Choir performed their Candlelight Christmas Concert in St. Mary's Church on Friday 7th December, under the baton of Nancy Mann, and with the accompaniment of Gerald Nicholas. They raised over £260 towards the Church's Heating Fund. The audience was welcomed to the church by the Rev. Paul Mackness.

The evening's programme was extremely well conceived, following an intriguing progress from the wistful and often haunting quality of some of the traditional airs in the first two sets, through to an increasing lyricism and jollity in the last two. The range was such that John Rutter was the only composer whose work was featured twice.

There was a healthy representation for Welsh musicians with 'Benedictus', by the Gwynedd composer Robat Arwyn, a piece which was a huge success recently for The Priests, being sung by the choir for the first time. The Welsh traditional carol 'Deck the hall' was among the most popular items and the choir also delivered 'Sussex carol' and 'Ding dong! merrily on high'.

Highlights of the third set were 'Away in a manger' and 'Dawel nos', the translation of Franz Gruber's famous 'Silent night'. The choir, which had showed such a delicate control over some very subtle pieces earlier in the evening, was now able to display its capacity for more lyrical singing too, as well as its ability to sing in Welsh!

The final set gave the audience 'Snow!', Teena Chinn's arrangement of several classic Christmas favourites, Mel Tormé and Robert Wells' 'The Christmas song' and was rounded off with Irving Berlin's 'White Christmas', in which Gerald Nicholas and Inka Lesinska accompanied with a piano duet.

The depth of talent in the choir was displayed once again by the range of choristers who appeared as soloists. Frances Oates gave us MacGimsey's 'Sweet little Jesus boy', Carol Mayhew sang Cumming's 'As dew in April', with Emma Halls accompanying on oboe. Marian Graceson gave us Ireland's 'The holy boy' and 'What child is this?' to the air usually sung as 'Greensleeves'.

Another successful feature of the evening was the sequence of short poetry readings interspersed among the songs. Again there was the same progress from an older tradition to hilarity. The pieces in the first set, read by Dot Swainson and Gyll Nisbet, harked back to the hymnologist Isaac Watts and to the century after Chaucer.

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Thereafter, each reading seemed to give a pointer to the songs which were to follow it. After Anne Davies had ushered in the second set with a satirical piece about an egg-nog, from 1817, successive readings by Beryl Porter, Angela Preston and Linda Fowler offered the more benign moods of several Victorian poets. The final set was brought in by Gladys Morris's very funny dramatization of 'A visit from Saint Nicholas' and Sandra Devonald gave us the final poem, de la Mare's 'Mistletoe'.

The evening ended with mince pies and mulled wine, but the concert in itself been a most warming and inspiriting experience on what was a rather bleak evening outside.

Robert Nisbet