The Northern Chamber Orchestra (NCO) serves up a festive feast with not one, but two December concerts in Cheshire. First up is ‘Winter Wonders’ on Saturday 3 December, 7.30pm, at Macclesfield Heritage Centre with King’s School Foundation Choir from Macclesfield, conducted by Ian Crawford. The Foundation Choir is the school’s senior choir and consists of girls and boys aged 14 and up who rehearse together on a weekly basis and perform across the Northwest and beyond. The choir will accompany the orchestra, baritone Thomas Isherwood and soprano, Alison Langer, in Finzi’s ‘In Terra Pax’ (subtitled ‘Christmas Scene’) for which NCO has received support from the Finzi Trust. This nostalgic, seasonal work was written in 1954 and was inspired by a childhood memory, when Finzi climbed Chosen Hill (between Gloucester and Cheltenham) and looked out over a picturesque scene, with the sound of the midnight bells chiming across the frosty valleys. The event made a lasting impression on him and gave him the idea for his miniature-masterpiece, which creates a pastoral, musical setting for two verses from Robert Bridge’s poem, ‘Noel: Christmas Eve, 1913’, subtitled, ‘Pax hominibus bonae voluntatis’ - promoting the simple message of ‘Peace and goodwill to all’.
The ‘Winter Wonders’ concert offers plenty to ‘make a song and dance about’ with soprano, Alison Langer singing popular, jazz-age hits by Gershwin and Dvořák’s hearty, Eastern European, folk-inspired ‘Slavonic Dances’, while Shostakovich’s Waltz no 2 from his famous ‘Jazz Suite no 2’, and his typically cynical twist on a polka provide a delicious contrast, and Serenade from Delius’ ‘Hassan’ (supported by the Delius Trust) calms the mood. Debussy’s ‘The Snow is Dancing’ from his Suite, ‘The Children’s Corner’ and Britten’s ‘Simple Symphony’ (featuring musical themes he wrote as a boy) echo Finzi’s touching themes of childhood memories and nostalgia.
Ian Crawford, King’s School Foundation Choir’s conductor said: “We are thrilled to be part of NCO’s Winter Wonders concert on 3 December and to be performing at the Heritage Centre in our home town. Our students loved the experience last year and are really looking forward to singing ‘In Terra Pax’, which is such a beautifully heart-warming piece by Finzi.”
Five days later, the NCO is bringing ‘Christmas in Vienna’ to one of Cheshire’s landmark attractions, Tatton Park, Knutsford, on Thursday 8 December, 8pm. Gliding into the Yuletide season, the concert features sparkling Viennese waltzes, marches and polkas by members of the famous Strauss family, and others, including ‘Champagne Polka’, ‘Radetzky March’ and perhaps the most famous of all – ‘The Blue Danube’ waltz. With other gloriously uplifting classics, along with carols and seasonal choral works - some sung by St Nicholas Catholic High School Choir from Hartford near Northwich, conducted by the School’s Director of Music, Helen McKenna - the start to Christmas doesn’t get more bubbly than this.
The concert starts at 8pm and directly beforehand, from 7pm, ticket holders are invited to step into Tatton’s ‘Gloriumptious Christmas Mansion’ and Roald Dahl’s magical world, as his extraordinary storytelling weaves itself through the grand staterooms and into the servants’ quarters. As an extra treat, the ‘Christmas in Vienna’ concert ticket price includes a warming winter drink or fruit juice. Actor, writer and director, Kate Millward, will present the concert, bringing a touch of literary drama with a few readings, selected to reflect the event’s themes.
Kieran Kelly, Headteacher at St Nicholas Catholic High School said: “The members of the Choir thoroughly enjoyed the experience of performing with a professional orchestra in one of Cheshire’s most special attractions last year, and we are thrilled to have been invited back! We will be singing lovely songs including ‘Do you hear what I hear?’/ ‘The Christmas Star’ and ‘Have yourself a merry little Christmas’, and rehearsals have been going well!”
Tickets for NCO’s ‘Winter Wonders’ concert at Macclesfield Heritage Centre on Saturday 3 December, 7.30pm, are priced £18 / £14; 18s and under are free. They are available from the NCO Box Office: 0161 247 2220; Macclesfield Visitor Information Centre: 01625 378123; the Silk Museum Shop at the Heritage Centre and On The Door. More details at www.ncorch.co.uk
Tickets for NCO’s ‘Christmas in Vienna’ concert at Tatton Park on Thursday 8 December, 8pm, are priced £22 (for seats further forward) / £18; £12 for 18s and under (includes a warming, winter drink or fruit juice and the opportunity to look around the Mansion from 7pm). They are available from the NCO Box Office: 0161 247 2220 and direct from Tatton: 01625 374400. NOT available On The Door. Hurry to book – they are selling quickly.
"We are thrilled to be part of NCOs Winter Wonders concert and to be performing at the Heritage Centre in our home town."
Ian Crawford, Kings School Choir Conductor
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