Carols in the Cathedral 12 & 13 December 2017

Carols 2107I don’t know how I’ve lived in or near Exeter for forty years and not been to one of these events before. They are now a fixture in the musical diary of the city and county, and rightly so. The choir, joined by the Devon County Junior Choir and Exeter Brass and accompanied by Stephen Tanner at the organ, treated the almost-capacity audience in Exeter Cathedral to a splendid evening of festive music, under their new conductor, Howard Ionascu.

The centre-piece of the evening was a new work, Hodie, by David Davies, commissioned by Rachel Smith (director of the Devon County Junior Choir) and dedicated to all the musicians taking part in the concert. A challenging work, by all accounts, and with a texture perhaps a little over-complex for the Cathedral’s acoustics, it certainly made the audience sit up and take notice.

The old adage, ‘Never work with children or animals’, could not have been more apposite this evening. The Devon County Junior Choir really stole the show. Seasonal songs, both old and new, delighted the audience. Michael Head’s The little road to Bethlehem, beautifully accompanied by Andrew Downton at the piano, left me near to tears in its innocent sensitivity, while Johnny Marks’ Rockin’ around the Christmas tree (with actions!) was slickly executed and the audience loved it!

Exeter Philharmonic Choir’s own items ranged from Praetorius to Rutter, while Exeter Brass gave us two exciting numbers by Samuel Scheidt and Lennie Niehaus, displaying a fine sense of ensemble. Their rich tone added that extra uplifting element to the familiar carols for choir and audience, always a welcome chance to stretch one’s legs in a Christmas concert!

I hope Howard Ionascu enjoyed his first Christmas with the choir as much as we, the audience, did. There cannot have been many people leaving the Cathedral this evening who didn’t go home feeling joyful and ready for the festive season. Thank you, Exeter Philharmonic Choir.

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