Carols at Christmas/Malvern Theatres


IT’S pitch black outside. Masked figures slowly move about in the winter gloom, wrapped up tight to keep out the December chill.

In the distance, a light shines brightly. Is it the fabled star in the east? No, we’re not quite there yet.

In fact, it’s the musical energy of the Armonico Consort, cheering everyone up and making us all forget – for a while, at least – that wretched virus.

It was like meeting up with old friends after months of lockdowns. And this was literally the case as far as organist Adrian Lucas was concerned, for many of us vividly remember his sterling work over many years at Worcester Cathedral before his departure for pastures new in 2012.

And what a night this would prove to be, one in which artistic director Christopher Monks was to guide his charges through a sumptuous seasonal feast of baroque and late Renaissance music, the menu spiced with several of our best-loved traditional carols.

The reader for the evening was actor and television wine expert Oz Clarke, who put down his glass for just a moment to treat a socially-distanced capacity crowd to some festive flavoured narrations. No vin ordinaire here, it was all vintage stuff.

And yes, this was indeed a Yuletide table groaning with goodies. Jonathan Roberts’ Mistletoe, with its haunting chords, melted into a heavenly version of Away in a Manger, David Willcocks’ glorious arrangement breathing fresh life into this seasonal favourite.

No concert of this kind could possibly leave John Rutter out in the cold, and his Shepherd’s Pipe Carol heralded the much-loved composer’s admittance to the party.

Rutter’s What Sweeter Music would be performed later in the programme after the evergreen O Little Town of Bethlehem and, if this wasn’t enough, a third appearance manifested in the form of The Very best Time of Year, a sentiment with which few would argue.

Armonico Consort returns to Malvern Theatres next Saturday, December 19, for two performances of A German Christmas. They will undoubtedly prove to be yet another couple of Christmas crackers.

John Phillpott