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Anticipation was well rewarded

The Phil’s Christmas Presence Wakefield Cathedral Saturday December 19 2009

As extra chairs were hurriedly placed in the aisle to accommodate latecomers among another full house, there was a palpable sense of anticipation in the air.

But then there always is for the Yorkshire Philharmonic Choir’s Christmas concert, which has much to do with knowing this anticipation will be well rewarded.

And rewarded it was last Saturday, another marvellous occasion which showed this always impressive choir at its best and filled the cathedral with festive spirit.

Tradition dictates O come, O come Emmanuel should open proceedings, giving voices, organ and brass ensemble an early chance to shine, after which everything from the plaintive soulfulness of The Shepherd’s Carol to a raucous arrangement of The Twelve Days Of Christmas were handled with seemingly effortless aplomb.

Another tradition of these concerts is a guest appearance by singers from a local junior school, in this case Wakefield Girls’ High School with its Years 5 and 6 choir, conducted by Jane Ratcliffe.

Their four songs, well-chosen to suit the abilities of young choristers, charmed the audience, especially the words-and-action finalé to Gabriel.

Many Christmas songs lend themselves well to singing unaccompanied and although I wasn’t enamoured by Martin Shaw’s arrangement of the Coventry Carol, I can’t praise too highly the superb balance and sensitivity with which the Phil’ delivered it.

A choir, of course, owes much to its conductor and here the always-animated Andrew Padmore was in more ebullient form than ever, both in his extrovert yet utterly precise handling of the singers and in his compere role – the latter recalling the verbal gymnastics of Leonard Sachs in his Good Old Day pomp.

I might have been shivering by the time I’d walked back to the car but the warmth of this occasion will persist much longer in the memory than that.

“Same time, same place next year?” I asked at the conclusion of last year’s review. There’s really no need to repeat the question this time round.



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