Aylesbury Choral Society kicks off the Christmas Season in style

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There’s many a good line attributed to James Bond and one of the best comes from the beginning of the film Goldfinger when our eponymous hero retreats to the fridge for a fresh bottle of champagne while his companion asks what was wrong with the bottle they already have open… “My dear girl, there are some things that just aren't done. Such as, drinking Dom Perignon '53 above the temperature of 38 degrees Fahrenheit” before adding “that's just as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs”. It’s a great line and at this time of year it gets you thinking about things that absolutely must go together. Like champagne and a chilled temperature, there are certain things that are intrinsically linked to Christmas, such as Morecambe and Wise, mince pies, and of course, an Aylesbury Choral Society concert.

On Saturday 25th November, the Aylesbury Choral Society delivered their annual Christmas recital, performing Bach’s Christmas Oratorio Parts I-IV with its near-resident orchestra; Aylesbury Sinfonia, and the choir's Musical Director Jeff Stewart at the helm.

Bach specifically wrote his Oratorio to be performed in churches, so the spiritual setting of ACS’s usual concert venue of St Mary’s Church in Aylesbury’s old town was particularly pertinent. It’s amazing how the choral society perpetually continues to fill this venue to create an amiable and benevolent atmosphere such as it was on Saturday, with an extra sprinkling of Christmas anticipation.

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The Oratorio takes us through the six days of Christmas, though in this case, the first four days cover the Advent through to the New Year. (the full six would be well over three hours). The choral started as it meant to go on, enveloping the exuberant atmosphere and encouraging the audience to come now with gladness, and welcome the morrow. Throughout the performance the joy of Bachs work was etched on the faces of the singers, and this very much carried through in the music of the evening.

Aylesbury Choral Society's Bach Christmas OratorioAylesbury Choral Society's Bach Christmas Oratorio
Aylesbury Choral Society's Bach Christmas Oratorio

Soprano soloist, Eliana Pretorian was one of, if not the standout features of the evening. With the likes of Handel’s Messiah, Mozart’s Requiem, and Haydn’s Creation under her belt, Bachs Christmas Oratorio proved an ablest dalliance with her vibrant Aria’s abounding the Nave. There were times when the rich bass of Timothy Bagly threatened to muffle the cut glass performance but then again, Baglys own performance was a joy to hear. The extremely accomplished Alto, Alison Kettlewell and Tenor Timothy Coleman had the more difficult tasks of navigating Bachs low range for the Alto part, and fluctuating range for the tenor, though it took nothing away from their performances.

Of Aylesbury Sinfonia, one can only commend their magnificent performance. A collection of the finest musicians brilliantly brought together by Stewert. None more so than Julain Brockless on the bassoon who was particularly sublime.

To give the fourth day, and the end of the night's performance, the crescendo it deserved Stewart chose to reprise the Glory to God in the Highest chorus from part two and it did indeed enable a most fitting finale.

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There can be no better way of celebrating the start of the Christmas season than a Coral Concert courtesy of Aylesbury Choral Society. Some might argue that the inclusion of the Brussel Sprout with their roast dinners signifies the start of festivities, but that would be as bad as listening to Taylor Swift without earmuffs.

Aylesbury Choral Society’s next concert can be enjoyed on March 23rd 2024.

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