Musical balm came at once in the warm, clear tenor of Timothy Reynolds filling the vast space of St Patrick’s Cathedral and proclaiming Comfort Ye, My People.
Handel’s declaration that “warfare is accomplished” had special resonance for the post-lockdown audience.
Reynolds delivered Every Valley Shall be Exalted with style and grace. Among the succession of other soloists presenting various arias, countertenor Alex Ritter stood out for his well-projected account of O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion.
Watson elicited incisive rhythmic attack and clear diction in the choruses, including the ubiquitous Hallelujah.
Diverse in style and mood, a generous choice of carols maintained the yuletide spirit. There was an appealing freshness in the singing, whether in the tenderness of Harold Darke’s In The Bleak Midwinter or John Rutter’s rambunctious Shepherd’s Pipe Carol.
Technical challenges were well met both in the difficult, eerie harmonies of Kenneth Leighton’s arrangement of the Coventry Carol and in the madcap take on The Twelve Days of Christmas by BBC arranger Ian Humphris. Throughout the program organist Christopher Cook offered unfailingly colourful but judicious support.
After a year bereft of choral singing, it did the heart good to hear choir and organ resounding through William Wardell’s imposing Gothic masterpiece and to be given a poignant and hope-filled reminder of the powerful role music and architecture play in the life of the city.
Christmas cheer indeed.