Concert review by Richard Godfrey, Uplyme-based organist and teacher, and artistic adviser to South Wessex Organ Society
LYME Bay Chorale, under the direction of Alex Davies, magnificently captured the magic of Christmas in a beautifully programmed concert last Sunday at St Michael’s Parish Church, Lyme Regis.
The singers were at their best, with the lovely solo voice of Chloe Stratta soaring above them in many of the pieces.
Andrew Millington provided wonderful accompaniments, extracting a kaleidoscope of colour from the great Škrabl organ.
A superbly decorated large Christmas tree dominated the south aisle. But for the capacity audience it must have been the contribution of the St Michael’s Children’s Choir that best captured the spirit of the occasion.
The 14 children, ranging from 6 to 13 years old, were drawn from five local schools. They were clearly extremely well trained, watching the conductor carefully and singing with gusto.
From the musical point of view, there was a nice balance of serious and not-so-serious items, and a good number of traditional carols for the audience to sing.
Poulenc’s Gloria (1959) was a striking start, with its extreme contrasts in dynamics, tight rhythms, and exciting fanfare-like organ contributions – plus harmonies that make Poulenc one of those composers instantly recognisable from a single chord or two.
The other major contribution from the choir was Christus Natus Est by Cecilia McDowall, written in 2003. This was a imaginative choice, serious music with modern and intriguing backings to carols such as Personent Hodie and Infant Holy.
The very quiet sections, with intricate organ accompaniments, were excellently performed.
Among the less serious items, Good King Wenceslas, as arranged by Paul Halley (2003), must take first prize. The funky harmonies, key shifts, storm effects, stumbling page, and splendid King will live in our memories.
The presentation of a magnificent golden crown (made, I believe, by Alex Davies’s daughter Cecilia) to King Wenceslas (sung by Joss Kent) was a moment we shall all treasure.