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Beenham Wind Orchestra’s rousing celebration of Christmas

Beenham Wind Orchestra/ Andover Ladies Choir concert

at Kennet School, on Sunday, December 10

A rousing celebration of Christmas – review by Nick Ashton

Beenham Wind orchestra/ Andover Ladies Choir concert Kennet School
Beenham Wind orchestra/ Andover Ladies Choir concert Kennet School

Beenham Wind Orchestra and Andover Ladies choir treated us to a wonderful display of musicianship at the Kennet School in Thatcham. Walking in we were impressed by the combined numbers of the choir and orchestra. Anticipation was in the air for how they would fit together. And we weren’t disappointed. Our compere for the evening, Liz Ward, linked the sections of the evening together well and invited us to score our feeling of well-being at the start and got a loud clear yes when asked if it had gone up at the end.

The choir and orchestra blended well straight away to give us a strong opening in a medley called Christmas on Broadway. The audience immediately felt comfortable knowing that these groups really knew what they were doing. This was down in no small part to their leaders, Victoria Benjamin for Beenham Wind Orchestra and Clare Oliver for Andover Ladies choir whose musical skill and passion clearly inspired their groups and were illustrated by the tightness of the sound.

The choir continued with Christmas Lullaby and Glow, delivered with impressive precision part singing and lovely full sound ably supported by the sympathetic accompaniment of their pianist Anna Mullens.

Beenham Wind orchestra/ Andover Ladies Choir concert Kennet School
Beenham Wind orchestra/ Andover Ladies Choir concert Kennet School

The orchestra then performed a beautiful arrangement of Twas in the Moon of Wintertime, based on an old Canadian carol, evocative of the sounds of that native Canadian heritage.

Next was Minor Alterations, Christmas through the looking glass, un unusual slant on old favourites arranged by David Lovrien in a minor key. Our compere told us that an orchestra member had confessed that it was “hard to play” and to their credit it didn’t appear to be.

The second half opened with I will Light Candles this Christmas’ and the choir was joined by the clarinet group and we were reminded of Victoria’s impressive lilting musicianship on soprano saxophone. The orchestra’s performance of We three Kings, an arrangement that started with a syncopated jazzy Camel Walk and allowed each section of the orchestra to showcase their tight playing and the brass section were especially notable in this.

High comedy followed, as 12 members of audience were encouraged to perform the actions for each of the Twelve days of Christmas (or cajoled, in some cases?) as the audience joined in with gusto. It was especially nice to see the youngest ‘volunteer’ join in with her dad to be the pipers piping!

The choir then gave us 12 days after Christmas, a thoroughly disrespectful and enjoyable take off of the song it was based on.

Next came the warm and heartfelt Mary, did you know?, possibly my favourite of their songs. It showed warm female empathy for the enormous expectations of Mary.

Beenham Wind Orchestra then performed what may have been their most impressive piece to end the evening - The proclamation of Christmas. And again we wondered at their skill in delivering such a rich, full sound and an impressive run-through of more Christmas favourites. One of the audience summed it up “I can’t believe that, for a band that rehearse once a week, there were literally no flaws”. This was a fitting end to an impressive evening.

Our compere asked the longest serving member of the 23-year-old orchestra what was the best thing about it, she simply replied “the joy of belonging”. We all shared a little of that joy this evening.

For information about future events visit Beenham Wind Orchestra

Beenham Wind Orchestra’s Spring Concert will be at 7.30pm on April 27 at St Mary’s Church Thatcham.

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