St John’s Church Youth Choir bring the joy
It's in the darkest times that the stars shine brightest, an observation the Rev. Nicholas Dill shared with the audience who packed St. John's Church Sunday evening to hear the annual Christmas programme offered by the St. John's Youth Choir.
The stars to which Rev Dill were referring were, of course, the 50 or so young people bringing joy to our corner of the world with their bright, clear voices singing a delightful selection of seasonal music old and new, from near and far, under the direction of Marjorie Pettit.
A popular spot on the December calendar, evidenced by the large audience, the programme featured the choir's young voices supported by a chamber ensemble led by Kate Ross, Andrea Hodson on piano and William Duncan on organ. The ensemble work was excellent, with sections singing their parts expressively and confidently, producing a rich tone. Technically competent, the soloists at times seemed rather overwhelmed by the musical accompaniment.
The first half of the programme opened with the 16th century sacred carol, 'Gaudete', a hymn of rejoicing at the birth of Christ, followed by the English traditional carol 'Lo He Comes with Clouds Descending', which provided the audience with the opportunity to join in the celebration of the season in song.
There were in fact, several opportunities for audience participation much welcomed including the three-part ballad of Good King Wenceslas, with the part of the page sung sweetly by Hannah Tait.
Other traditional carols included the Irish Wexford Carol, and a delicate duet arrangement of the Polish 'Angel Carol' presented enchantingly by Holly Stephens and Anna Cutler.
Funky rock arrangements of two seasonal favourites, 'Frosty the Snowman' and 'Jingle Bell Rock,' sung with enthusiasm by the choir, rounded out the first half of the programme.
The second half of the programme featured solos by some promising young women, including Francesca Dill's clear, confident rendition of 'O Holy Night' which opened the second half.
Other solos included 'In the Bleak Mid Winter' sung by Meghan Ward, 'The Virgin's Slumber Song' by Adrienne Miller and Jenna Kessaram singing 'The Kings'.
A very pretty duet, 'O Come Holy Saviour' was performed by Katie Ewles and Catriona Tait. Two highly entertaining songs explored the more secular aspects of the holiday seasons, which the children performed with obvious enjoyment.
'Christmas fare' and 'Rapping Paper' humorously acknowledged the overindulgence and challenge of suitable gifts associated with Christmas Day.
The evening ended on a high note with 'And the Glory of the Lord' from Handel's Messiah and the choir and congregation joining to sing a rousing 'O come All you Faithful' following Rev Dill's reflection and blessing.
Marjorie Pettit is to be congratulated for consistently and successfully challenging her young charges to expand the range of their musical experience and at the same time enriching the Bermudian public with the fruits of their disciplined labour.