Fakenham Parish Church
The season to be jolly came early for a packed audience in Fakenham Parish church thanks to a wonderful Magic of Christmas concert by the all-female Coro Stellante choir.
Led by its irrepressible conductor Michael Kibblewhite the 30-strong ensemble – right – sang their hearts out with a glorious mixture of traditional carols, choral classics and Christmas selections from around the world.
I think we knew we were in for a treat from the off with the church in darkness and a sextet of candle-holders taking us through a haunting medieval antiphon, Hodie Christus Natus Est.
A bouncy version of The Holly and the Ivy, with keyboard accompanist John Byron enjoying himself, lightened the mood prior to a full-blooded hymn of praise, Gott in Der Natur, by Schubert.
The most charming piece for me in the first half was a wonderful arrangement of A Child of God by Richard Rodney Bennett. Its negro spiritual undertones were brought out by the four soloists relishing their limelight and the rhythmic harmonising of the choir.
We were more into familiar seasonal territory during the second half though the arrangements provided the selections with their own special identities.
Angels From the Realms of Glory had been brought ‘up to date’ by David Willcocks and O Holy Night featured a stunning solo. Go Tell It On the Mountain morphed into an American cowboy carol, the singers clapping us through their joyful sound.
The German romantic Maria Wiegenlied was performed without a conductor, members of the choir charmingly singing to each other. John Rutter’s Candlelight Carol brought down the curtain on an exceptional evening.
Churchwarden Andrew Stewart thanked Coro Stellante for making a return visit to Fakenham and congratulated them on their performance.
“I think this has been an absolutely wonderful concert and a fantastic start to Advent and the Christmas season,” he said.