Britten Ceremony of Carols by Candlelight in Milton Lilbourne

Yesterday afternoon I put on a concert of Britten’s Ceremony of Carols at the church of St Peter’s in Milton Lilbourne with Transeamus Chamber Choir, accompanied by Harpist Elizabeth-Jane Baldry.  The original idea for this concert was given to me probably about 18 months ago but it’s taken that long to find time in the schedule to do it justice.

I love it when a plan comes together, and last night that’s exactly what happened.   Transeamus Chamber Choir was only formed 3 months ago – essentially it’s a choir made up of friends who I gathered together specifically for this one performance.  However, Ceremony of Carols is not the easiest piece to perform, and given the plan was to do this with just 3 rehearsals for a choir which didn’t previously exist, I must admit at first it did seem quite a challenge.   Not only that, I was insistent that we should perform this properly with harp accompaniment.  I can still remember the terror on peoples faces when we first met around someone’s kitchen table for an informal first look at the piece!

But everyone involved was absolutely dedicated to making this a fantastic performance and the results of their hard work was very apparent last night.  To make things a little more challenging we also had a couple of people who were unable to sing in the concert due to colds and losing their voice.  I always feel for people when that happens as I am aware of the amount of effort which has been put in.   With a few phone calls I managed to source a fantastic soprano to come and sing some of the Treble I solo parts!

Perhaps the biggest challenge of all was the harp.    Until the day of the concert, none of the choir members had rehearsed with a harp – basically the rehearsals were directed by me using a keyboard. I did set it to make a sort of harp like noise, but as we all know that is absolutely no substitute for the real thing!   We were very fortunate to secure Elizabeth Jane Baldry to play the harp for this concert.   Luckily one of her cousins sings in Transeamus and was able to put me in touch.

At 2pm on the day of the performance Transeamus found out just what it was like to sing with Harp accompaniment – and also just how the accompaniment actually goes, rather than me bashing out a few notes on the keyboard!!  No one was phased by this and they all did a fantastic job.  Elizabeth Jane was absolutely note perfect on the harp and a real pleasure to work with.

To enhance the performance of the Britten, we put on a first half of around 45 minutes of music which complimented the Britten.  This included 3 harp solos, an organ solo, a couple of songs by Rubbra and ‘Little Road to Bethlehem’ sang as a duet.  I think it’s fair to say this was my musical highlight of the year.  Thank you to everyone who performed in the concert and to all those who supported it.  The concert was a great success and, after expenses, has raised nearly £300 for the Church Organ fund at St Peter’s in Milton Lilbourne.