December is always a busy month for the choir, but this year it has been even busier than usual. On 13 December we performed Messiah at Holy Trinity. It was a splendid occasion; the church was packed and the feedback afterwards was that it had been a wonderful performance, by choir, soloists and the accompanying instruments. Our Director, Ian Crawford, had rehearsed the choir hard to make sure the choral numbers came to life and didn’t slip into a stale rehash of music that most members had sung countless times. I was delighted to hear from a member of the audience who hadn’t heard either the choir or Messiah before that the choir sang with passionate involvement.
Barbara Ruzsics, who was to have sung the soprano solos, had to withdraw at the last moment because of ill health, and we were very grateful to Nicola Howard for taking over at short notice. She joined Joyce Tinsley, Tim Kennedy and Mark Rawlinson to make a wonderful team of soloists. Stephen Hargreaves (organ), no stranger to Merseyside audiences, and members of the Liverpool Concert Orchestra – Owen Baker and Julie Baker trumpets), Nick Byrne (cello) and Tony Lucas (timpani) – provided a splendid accompaniment. Having the solo numbers accompanied by the cello and organ made for an interesting change of musical texture.
An added dimension to this concert was that it was promoted in association with Crosby Rotary Club. Thanks to the efforts of a choir member who is currently their President, publicity for our performance was disseminated much more widely than usual, and people who had never heard us sing before were encouraged to attend. Proceeds from the concert were shared between the choir and Crosby Rotary – so we were very glad to see the large audience!
Melling Tithebarn concert
No sooner was that concert over than we were back to rehearsal: this time for a concert at Melling Tithebarn. The choir did once sing in this delightful venue, many years ago, but it was unfamiliar to most people. We were warmly welcomed and thoroughly enjoyed singing carols old and new, as well as a couple of choruses from Messiah. Ian conducted, introducing the various items with his inimitable humour and enthusiasm, and cajoling the audience into energetic participation. We were ably accompanied on this occasion by Judy Blakemore.
There were plenty of opportunities for choir members to sing carols this year, since we were asked to do two slots in Marks and Spencer, when collections were made for Derian House, the children’s hospice.
Furthermore, on the day of our final choir rehearsal for Messiah we received a request to sing carols for holiday-makers at Pontins holiday camp in Ainsdale. This was a new experience, and we weren’t quite sure how it would go. On the second date, 30 December, we were told that there were some three thousand people, mainly I think in family groups, gathered for New Year celebrations. The huge hall was packed, noisy and cheerful, with children running round and people clustered round tables, chatting and drinking. We were certainly not listened to in reverent silence, but there was a row of children at the foot of the stage, gazing up at us, and occasionally joining in, which was enormously appealing, and the jolly atmosphere made the occasion most enjoyable.
Looking back over the past few weeks, I realise that while Christmas does generally mean a time for families to get together, for a choir it is also a time to get involved in the wider community and to reach out to audiences beyond those who normally come to concerts. There is a chance that one or two people who heard us for the first time this December may come to Holy Trinity to hear us again, and it would be great if that happened. But what is more important is that we shared our pleasure in choral singing and hopefully gave a musical lift to people’s feelings. I shall treasure the comment of a man who, having heard us sing at Pontins on 23 December, said that our carol-singing reminded him what Christmas was all about.