Sad to note today the passing of Sir David Willcocks, former Director of Music at King’s College, Cambridge and the Royal College of Music, conductor of the Bach Choir, organist, conductor, composer and best-known as editor, along with John Rutter, of the popular anthology, Carols for Choirs.
It’s no understatement to say that Carols for Choirs has become as much a part of tradition at Christmas as the decorated tree and tinsel; for many, Christmas simply isn’t Christmas without that opening solo verse of Once in Royal David’s City lifting clear into the vaulted roof, the wonderful intimacy of his arrangements of Away in a Manger and Silent Night, or robust settings of The Twelve Days of Christmas or I Saw Three Ships. The first volume in the series was published in the 1960s, and the 100 Carols for Choirs published in 1987 is the go-to carol collection for most choirs. A chorister’s Christmas begins around mid-autumn with that first cracking open of the anthology; the collection ranges from arrangements of popular carols together with lesser-known pieces, and has become the staple of choirs the world over, both amateur and professional. And if you’ve learned a carol descant, chances are it’s one from the book. Arguments about whether, between them, Willcocks and Rutter combined to save the tradition of choral Christmas carol-singing will no doubt continue, but it’s certainly fair to say that they provided an accessible, richly-rewarding and enduringly popular collection that has contributed much to keeping carol-singing alive and in rude health well into the twenty-first century.
Hail and farewell, Sir David, who leaves behind an enduring legacy at the heart of music-making at Christmas.
Members of the Cecilian Choir sallied forth from campus into Herne Bay this week, as guests at Beach Creative arts centre, for a festive lunchtime of carols.
Ranging from the plainchant Hodie Christus natus est to popular seasonal favourites such as God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen, a packed gallery space hosted an enthusiastic audience.
The Choir sang amidst the colourful backdrop of the December exhibition at Beach Creative, ‘Gold,’ which provided a myriad colours and textures as a visual enhancement of the programme of carols.
Our thanks to the board of Directors at Beach Creative for the invitation to perform, and to Mandy Broughton and Mandy Troughton for making us so welcome. We look forward to taking future musical events into the gallery next term.
Studio 3 Gallery resounded to the sound of Christmas earlier today, as members of the Cecilian and Chamber Choirs took a festival programme of carols across to the School of Arts’ Jarman Building.
An enthusiastic audience was treated to a mixture of carols old and new, ranging from Ravenscroft’s seventeenth-century Remember, O Thou Man to Lauridsen’s sumptuous O Nata Lux and the enduringly-popular Ukrainian carol, Carol of the Bells.
The ravishing choral colours were given extra lustre by the current paintings on display in Studio 3, Rose Hilton’s Give Life To Painting (about which more here). Afterwards, audience and performers mingled over refreshments to explore the paintings further still.
Our thanks to Katie McGown and Denise Twomey for the invitation to come and perform; there are exciting plans afoot to develop a series of music events in Studio 3 throughout next term; watch, as they say, this space…
Next week is the penultimate week of term, and the events are starting to come thick and fast;
Weds 10 Dec, 1.10pm; the Musical Theatre Society presents a lunchtime of carol-singing on the foyer-stage – admission is free
Thurs 11 Dec, Studio 3 Gallery, Jarman Building, 1pm; the Cecilian Choir presents a festive lunchtime of carols amidst the current exhibition in Studio 3 Gallery over in the School of Arts’ Jarman Building, followed by refreshments; the event is free, details on Facebook here
Saturday 13 Dec, 7.30pm; the University Chorus and Orchestra will be joined by musical alumni in the end of term concert featuring music by Mozart and Beethoven.
And there’s more to come the following week as well; see everything that’s to come on our What’s On page here.
The final few festivities (too much alliteration ?) to mark the end of the term saw members of the University community in fine form, with ‘Carols Round The Tree’ on Wednesday night bringing staff, students, visitors and friends together on a brisk December night.
The University Brass Ensemble braved the temperature to provide some robust playing whilst accompanying singers in a variety of traditional favourites. The student group ‘Sing!’ and the Chamber Choir joined in with a couple of carols as well.
An all-male barbershop quartet, distilled from members of the Chamber Choir, proivded lunchtime entertainment in Rutherford College on Thursday for the annual Former Staff Association Christmas lunch.
As usual, it’s been a lively end to the Christmas term: thanks to everyone involved, to Kent Hospitality and the Estates Team for their support (and roast chestnuts and mulled wine!) on Wednesday night.
A terrific thank you to everyone who came along to the ‘Flashmob’ carols yesterday, as we surprised visitors to the University’s Open Day in Rutherford dining-hall with a choice selection of carols.
They really got into the spirit of it: as you can see, they worked hard to sneak onto the balcony in Rutherford dining hall unobserved before springing up with a chord of Bb in their hearts to begin with a rousing ‘Ding Dong Merrily On High!’ which was greeted with warm applause from an enthusiastic crowd of visitors.
With members of the University community gathering in the evening for ‘Carols Round the Tree,’ the campus truly was alive with festive singing!
Because it does. Doesn't it ? Blogging about extra-curricular musical life at the University of Kent.