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A Christmas Afternoon
Orchestra & Mixed Voice Choir Concert

1 Dec 2019

‘From the Top’ Concert Raises Money for Brain Tumour Research

Downside School Theatre was the venue for a seasonal concert given by ‘From the Top’ Orchestra and Choir – and what a splendid and uplifting experience it was! Over 260 people gathered to listen to a wide variety of Christmas music, performed with great enthusiasm and passion.

‘From the Top’ concerts are always in aid of charities, and on this occasion they were supporting Brain Tumour Research; the fantastic amount of £1,620 will be donated! Andrew Stammers spoke about living with this condition and how, historically, research has been badly underfunded, but that new developments are bringing fresh hope.

Following his words the choir sang the heartfelt, ‘May The Road Rise To Meet You’. It was an inspirational moment. Pat Dowling has assembled together, in a relatively short space of time, a group of singers and players who clearly enjoy making wonderful music together. Concerts like these need great dedication and practice; the result was full of flair and contrast.

The orchestra played excerpts from Handel’s Messiah, Mozart’s Symphony No 36 and ‘A VaughanWilliams Christmas’. ‘Vieux Noel’ was an arrangement by resident bassoonist, Philip Belben. They romped along through Jingle Bells (in big band style), Rudolph and Sleigh Ride (with bells, slapstick and authentic equine noises!). The clarinet and flute ensembles chipped in with seasonal offerings.

The choir opened with the rhythmic and joyful ‘African Alleluia’ followed by an unusual arrangement of the First Noel. Then came the reflective and powerful, ‘From a Distance’. In the second half, they sang the haunting ‘One Candle’ (with candles!) and ‘Shepherd’s Joy’. Several confident solos supported these songs. The choir ended by confirming what we already know – that, ‘There is a Santa Claus!’ Throughout, Sally Richards accompanied the choir, with great sensitivity and skill.

As a wonderful addition, the concert was augmented by the superb singing of the international mezzo-soprano Leah- Marian Jones, who sang, ‘The Little Road to Bethlehem’ and ‘Mary’s Boy Child’. She joined the choir for a beautiful performance of, ‘In The Bleak Midwinter’.

The concert concluded with ‘White Christmas’, played and sung by all, and lead by Leah. Both choir and orchestra, under Pat’s skilful and expert direction, have grown from humble beginnings to become well-established and blossoming groups of musicians. I look forward to the next event!

T. Jones

FTT Christmas 2019
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