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The Swift Singers’ and Leigh Orpheus’s Joint Christmas Concert

The Leigh Orpheus always enjoys performing in concert with other choirs and this concert, jointly with the Swift Singers in South Woodham Ferrers, was going to be special in at least two ways. Firstly, singing with a ladies choir allows a full range of SATB music to be sung, and Christmas music is often especially enhanced by that. Secondly, this was to be the Swift Singers’ Musical Director Clive Smith’s last concert with them.

Under the baton of the Leigh Orpheus’s Musical Director Janet Walker, and accompanied by its accompanist Kay Duell, the capacity audience was treated to a joint piece to start the concert – Alleluia Madrigal. We’d been told in rehearsal to emphasise ‘JOY’. We did and the audience seemed to like it!

Then the first set from the Swift Singers. Several delightful pieces – ‘Ding Dong Merrily on High’, ‘A La Nanita Nana/Coventry Carol’, ‘The First Nowell’ and ‘Guadete’. Skilled performances which received enthusiastic applause.

Next, the turn of the Leigh Orpheus, contrasting the higher Soprano and Alto voices of the ladies with the lower Tenor and Bass voices of the men. ‘Praise My Soul’, ‘O Holy Night’, ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’, and finally ‘Sleigh Bells’, a piece that rattles along, had ‘sleigh bell’ accompaniment, and is a bit of a ‘marmite’ number for Leigh Orpheus members. But at least everyone in the audience appeared to like it.

Then, preceding the interval, the two choirs joined together to sing an arrangement of ‘God Rest You Merry Gentlemen’, specially arranged by the Swift Singers’ MD Clive Smith.

The interval; the comfort break; the raffle; the queue for refreshments; eventually all was done and it was back to the music and a small change to the running order. Having heard the two choirs individually and together it was now time to hear the two MDs together, playing a duet, two-handed, on the piano. Dvořák’s Slavonic Dance No 8 Opus 46. Everyone loved it and they received much-deserved applause.

Next, more from the Leigh Orpheus who had embraced the Christmas spirit even more by changing into their bright red waistcoats and bowties. Canons were the order of the day; firstly ‘Glory to Thee My God This Night’, and then ‘The First Noel/Pachelbels’s Canon’. And to finish that set the uplifting ‘Every Time I Feel the Spirit’.

The final set from the Swifts contained more festive pieces: ‘This Little Babe’, ‘Winter Solstice’, ‘A Guiding Star’ (another Clive Smith arrangement), ‘Jingle Bells’ and ‘Silent Night’.

Time for the finale piece – a joint performance by the two choiurs of Handel’s ‘Hallelujah Chorus’. But not before thanks and appreciations of the Musical Directors and Accompanists, and the opportunity for the Swifts to bid a moving farewell and make a presentation to their Musical Director of very many years. On behalf of the Leigh Orpheus Chair Mick Jacks presented Clive with a gift, pointing out that now that he had more free time, and has a good voice, spending Friday evenings with the Leigh Orpheus would be a good choir, the gift being a set of Leigh Orpheus ties and 50th anniversary cufflinks. The warmth towards Clive was tangible.

And then the Hallelujah Chorus, jointly conducted by the two Musical Directors who, by the end, were clearly pleased with the performances.

Time for ‘Best Wishes for the Festive Season’ and to head for home, but not before some very welcome feedback, including that of a Leigh Orpheus member who had listened to part of the concert as a member of the audience. In his opinion the performances of both choirs were exemplary and an absolute joy to hear.


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