Cockermouth Harmonic Society


For many, the start of Christmas is heralded by the season of Advent Music in church services and public concerts. On Saturday the Cockermouth Harmonic Society presented an excellent evening of Carols, Readings and Organ Solos to a capacity audience at Christ Church. This was a well constructed programme following a journey from Advent to Epiphany, with a rich variety of music and prose.

The choir under the direction of Ian Thompson goes from strength to strength and is impressive in its range of expression and technical achievement. The obvious rapport he has with his singers enables him to bring out the best in them and to achieve the musical results he asks of them. Intonation is mostly secure, diction is clear and there is a warm radiance of tone. The women produced a fresh sweet tone in ‘Gabriel’s Message’ and ‘There is no Rose’, the men sang ‘Christe Redemptor Omnium’ with reverence after a slightly tentative start. The sound of the full choir was exhilarating and joyful in ‘Angelus ad Virginem’ and there was much drama in ‘Good King Wenceslas’ with the servant’s pathos contrasting well with the king’s bold confidence.

Three solo members of the choir made very fine kings in ‘Kings of Orient’ and Ian Thompson’s Cantor in the Advent Responsory was beautifully sung.  

The second part of the concert began with Vaughan Williams’ ‘Fantasia on Christmas Carols. Baritone soloist Jim Johnson followed the atmospheric organ introduction with a moving account of ‘This is the truth sent from above’ with the wordless chorus providing a sensitive accompaniment. A rousing contrast followed with ‘Come all you worthy gentlemen’ and later the ‘Sussex Carol’. In the ‘Boar’s Head Carol’ Jim Johnson was suitably declamatory, and he produced a lovely rich tone in ‘The Three Kings’ above the quiet chorale of the choir.

The readings that interspersed the musical items were brought to life by Dr Charles Moseley. There was a good choice here, with nostalgia and humour in poems by Betjemen, Auden, Masefield and Herrick. But always we were reminded of the true meaning of Christmas and the powerful words from the Gospel of St John were a fitting part of the programme.

Mention has to be made of the magnificent organ playing of Ian Hare. Playing on a fine but not always easy instrument, he treated us to a fantastic feast of colour and excitement both in solo items and accompaniments. In D’Aquin’s ‘Noel Suisse’ we heard a wind section of flutes, oboes and trumpets in this joyous dance. Bach’s ‘In Dulci Jubilo’ was impressively powerful, giving full rein to the rich sound of the instrument, which in the accompaniments to the Hymns sounded like a mighty cathedral organ.         

This was altogether a joyful evening, and one that will be hard to follow in the weeks to come.

Sue Johnson

November 2013 Concert