Chichester Cathedral Choir at home for special Christmas concert

With the traditional Christmas concerts at Chichester Festival Theatre off the calendar because of the CFT’s redevelopment work, Chichester Cathedral Choir is offering its very own Christmas carol concert in Chichester Cathedral.

Sarah Baldock, Chichester Cathedral organist and master of the choristers, is delighted at the event which has come together.

Sarah Baldock with the Cathedral choir '''Picture by Louise Adams C130882-6 Chi Cath Choir

Sarah Baldock with the Cathedral choir '''Picture by Louise Adams C130882-6 Chi Cath Choir

The first half will see the choir offer Poulenc’s Four Christmas Motets and Britten’s Ceremony of Carols, after which it will be off to bed for the boys. The second half of the concert will offer a selection of Christmas music performed by Close Company, the combined (adult) talents of the Cathedral Choir’s lay vicars.

Always a popular part of the CFT Christmas concerts, Close Company will offer pieces including Coventry Carol, Gaudete, Away In A Manger, Come To Bethlehem, I Syng Of A Maiden, Christmas Song, Winter Wonderland and Jingle Bells. Veni Emmanuel, There Is No Rose and O Sacrum Convivium will also feature in the second half.

As Sarah says, all in all, it will be a big event for the choir, which explains why they didn’t do it last year in the first winter of CFT closure: “It takes a lot of planning, but we thought it would be nice if we had the opportunity to do something in the cathedral.

“This year I really wanted to do Britten’s Ceremony of Carols as it is Britten’s centenary year. Ceremony of Carols is for boys’ voices and harp, and it will be quite a challenge for them. It is three parts all the way through, and the boys have never sung with a harpist before. They are going to find it suddenly a lot quieter compared to the piano that we use in rehearsals and the organ that we use in services. In practical terms, it means that they are going to have to be very, very secure in their notes. It’s real guts that is going to be needed, and there are some big solos. And there is a huge amount of variety within the different movements. This is really Britten at his best. It’s original, and there are some beautiful melodies. The harmonies are unmistakably Britten, but they are very accessible, and some of it is incredibly rhythmic.”

The Poulenc is not new to the boys, but it will be the first time they have performed all four Motets within the one concerts.

“I just love the Latin words. I think the Latin texts are beautiful, such beautiful language. These are unaccompanied, and I think it shows what a skilful choral writer Poulenc was. They are quite difficult to sing. Some of it is quite angular and unsingerish. It is quite technically challenging.”

But it will provide a rich opportunity for the boys to show their skills on their home territory once again – before the lay vicars take over for the second half: “This is the point where the boys go to bed because they have to sing three services the following day. We work them hard, but the thing is that it is very rewarding for them. And that’s when I have a glass of mulled wine before enjoying the lay vicars who will offer a programme that is a mixture of sacred and secular music. There will be some home-grown arrangements there as well.”

The Christmas Carol Concert is on Saturday, December 7 at 6.30pm. Tickets £20 (nave only) are available from Chichester Tickets in the Cloisters Shop at Chichester Cathedral or from www.chichestertickets.co.uk or 01243 813595.