Review: The Holly and the Ivy by the Linden Singers.

By Peter Williams

Directed by Basil Brooker and Elizabeth Curtis.

Organist Douglas Mews.

St John's Cathedral, Napier, Saturday, December 8.

Linden Singers founding director Basil Brooker always manages to build innovative programmes for his choir's concerts.

This one was no exception, with an appropriate mix of vocal and instrumental music, and the whole occasion aptly described by one audience member as "an oasis of calm in the midst of all the pre-Christmas busyness".

The choir of close to 30 singers gave a fine account of a well-contrasted selection of items - none more so than the processional singing by the sopranos and altos of Hodie Christus natus est from A Ceremony of Carols by Benjamin Britten, to start the concert.

Several brackets were presented, Advent carols, the shepherds and kings, two groups of carols honouring Mary, the mother of Jesus, and carols from Britain chosen, and directed extremely effectively, by Elizabeth Curtis.

All the items were notable for the purity of the soprano tone, the balance of the parts in chordal and contrapuntal singing, clarity of diction and security of pitch in the numerous a capella items.

The choir's singing was always well controlled, with appropriate dynamic contrasts throughout, and there were a number of clearly projected solo parts from choir members, adding to the variety of the singing.

Where required, sensitive support was given in the organ and piano accompaniments.

Guest organist, Douglas Mews, Wellington City organist, showed his considerable skill in the performance of three Choral Preludes by J S Bach and in an especially fine performance of contrasted Nol, using flute and reed registration.

He also provided effective accompaniment to boost the singing of several carols for choir and audience combined.

The spoken word also was included, with two readings from bass choir member Paddy Twigg, Christmas Crackers and Holly and Ivy, expanding on the concert's title, but unfortunately some of his words were delivered too quickly for the cathedral's unique acoustic properties.

Conductor Basil Brooker gave informative spoken introductions to the items, although these could have been abbreviated somewhat to give better balance to the whole programme.

The concert was repeated the next afternoon in St Matthew's Church, Hastings.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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