“A Celebration of Singing Together Again”, 16 December 2021 – review by Jonathan Palmer

The last time I conducted the choir in a public performance was just over two years ago, on 7th December 2019. We sang Buxtehude, Charpentier, Pergolesi and Mendelssohn in Gordano School Hall; I can’t remember the precise numbers, but approximately 65 singers took part.

How our lives have changed since then! Last night, in the Methodist Church, the 24 singers in ‘Portishead Chamber Choir’ (because we are normally much larger) performed in front of an invited audience of the same size: 24. Although some of the members were unable to attend at the last moment, due to winter illnesses, those that did all seemed to display a huge feeling of relief that we were at last, actually doing what we are best at: coming together to make live music.

“A Celebration of Singing Together Again” was the theme of the programme that coincided with the advent of the Christmas season. What better way than to sing contrasting settings of the ‘Gloria’ from the ‘Mass’ by Vivaldi, Haydn, Puccini and Karl Jenkins? These excerpts were interspersed with three solos ‘spots’. On my cello, I performed The Three Kings by Peter Cornelius and Saint-Saens famous The Swan, Katherine Everett sang The Virgin’s Slumber Song by Reger and the immensely popular Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Then finally, it was the turn of Richard Lennox, who, on his piano produced an epic improvisation, a seasonal medley in which I lost count of the number of well-known Carol/Christmas Carol/Song tunes that were presented in sequence.

As in past years, I felt we had to involve the audience who had been most appreciative. So, with their masks still in place, they joined in with It Came upon a Midnight Clear, and even had their own verse in O Little Town of Bethlehem. Finally, in O Come all ye Faithful, the most well-known carol of all, the effect of Richard making his keyboard sound like a church organ, the choir bursting into harmony, with all the ladies singing the descant, made the audience sing even more enthusiastically to produce a rousing climax to the proceedings. Yes, everyone was uplifted, determined that music wasn’t going to get left out this year. After vaccinations and boosters, live music-making was definitely an antidote for our pandemic preoccupations!

And, the sum of £180 was collected for the charity ‘Crisis at Christmas’!

Jonathan Palmer 17th December 2021