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Friends of St Mary's Winkfield

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The Music and Merriment concert took place on 1 December 2018 in St Mary's church, Winkfield.


In the darkened church, two children, Ben and Emily, stood on the chancel steps singing ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ to start the Music and Merriment Concert at St Mary’s. As their confident and clear young voices sang out, they were joined by the other members of the Junior Concert Choir, who had processed up the centre-aisle carrying multi-coloured glowsticks. It’s a traditional start, but it always works its magic, as the children’s singing is picked up first by the adult choir, then by the whole audience, and topped in the last verse by the exuberant Willcocks descant.

One performer wrote afterwards: "… it was a most successful evening that lived up to its title 'Music and Merriment'". The ‘merriment’ part was epitomised by two hilarious readings, first, the Motorists Psalm, intoned by John Edwards, and later he and Marian Stevens explored the consequences of ‘There’s a hole in my bucket’. Sue Bish’s reading took a more serious line - a moving narrative: Joseph, bewildered by the strange events that had taken over the life of Mary, her baby son and himself, realises that all this is part of God’s plan for humanity’s salvation.

Later, John and Caroline Kimbell brought new hilarity in their rendition of Chris Sugden’s ‘The Ivy and the Holly’ (remember the Kippers?), which points out that these two plant species are hardly up to their Christmas acclaim!

Great instrumental talent was shown by the 5Ts Brass Quintet, playing Len Tyler’s ‘Pentatonics’: a first performance played with enthusiasm and liveliness by five skilled brass-players; it had five short movements with varying moods, show-casing each brass instrument. Later on, the St Mary’s handbell ringers gave a skilful, convincing and enjoyable performance of Christmas music, rounded off by Tallis Canon; John and Caroline Kimbell marshalled the audience into singing the Canon’s well-known words as a round.

The programme featured three young instrumentalists, all of whom gave fine performances, expressive and virtuosic. Abi Kent showed off the alto saxophone’s singing qualities as well as its jazzy heritage. Abbey Hardy introduced, for many, a new voice – the lyrical and plaintive tone of the oboe, finishing up with a lively movement from a baroque concerto by Marcello.

In the second half, 10-year-old violinist Sarah Aizawa brilliantly brought out the mood changes of Monti’s well-known gypsy piece Czardas, switching from romantic to virtuosic, and her amazing technique, played entirely from memory, allowed the fast notes to fly from her violin at break-neck speed. Her brilliant piano accompanist Su Mei Kong said afterwards “She wanted to play those bits really fast, and she could do it, so that’s how it went”. Su Mei had a accompanied the other solo instrumentalists with her usual skill and sensitivity.


The Junior Concert Choir had their turn, starting off with ‘Rudolf ‘– yes, the reindeer – played by Ben complete with flashing red nose. The children acted out the dismay of Rudolph, teased for his nose, and the joy when Santa hired him as guide.

They then sang another first performance, of a round that set the famous Christmas poem ‘Love came down at Christmas’, and they finished with ‘Sing high, sing low’ – a lovely modern carol to a gentle Calypso rhythm, sung with actions to bring out the words. They sang as a great team under the baton of Anthony Hodson, and greatly enjoyed themselves.

Later in the programme, the children joined the adult choir, now known as the Senior Concert Choir, in another first performance, with no less than 35 singers under Anthony’s baton. This was a performance of a lyrical new carol by Anthony, setting words by Marion Caragounis. It started with a lilting tune for the first verse leading to a change in mood that is overtaken by realisation of what Christmas is about, and in the third verse, the original tune is overlaid by a descant of Christmas joy.

The Seniors had had an earlier outing in the programme, with two lively pieces under Paul Jackson’s baton. The first was Wilberg’s modern arrangement of the well-known ‘Ding Dong merrily on high’, with the lower voices used as emphasis in an off-beat rhythm. Jonathan Holl skilfully supplied the challenging organ accompaniment. Their second piece was what can only be described as a ‘patter carol’, in which a story of the Nativity and its aftermath is told at breakneck speed, accompanied by Su Mei Kong’s virtuosic piano-playing.

Most people were unaware, but this was the first ‘outing’ of St Mary’s organ after completion of its renovation by organ builder Tarquin Wiggins – accomplished (apart from a trimming or so) just two days before the concert. Jonathan Holl provided the accompaniment for all of the audience carols, he also accompanied Wilberg’s fast-flowing ‘Ding Dong’, as reported earlier, and ‘Radiant Star’.

All in all, it was a very successful concert, with an enjoyable interval at which everybody enjoyed the traditional mince-pies and mulled wine provided and served by the Women’s Guild. Many kind remarks have been given, but the appreciation of the concert was well demonstrated by the very successful retiring collection that (with HMRC’s small donations scheme) just topped £400.

More than 60 people were (voluntarily) involved in the Music and Merriment concert, mostly performers but with many helpers ensuring that everything ran smoothly, and the Friends of St Mary’s Winkfield would like to express their gratitude to all who took part in this great venture.

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