This year, on Friday 16th December, the Glória choir’s Christmas Concert 2016, at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, under the direction of Maestro Ian Packham, could only be described as a spiritual experience. The pieces ranged from sacred hymns to film soundtracks, and from popular music to Christmas classics, all sung in Glória’s inimitable way.
Glória got a rousing standing ovation even before they started, as they came into the cathedral, and began with White Winter Hymnal, a Fleet Foxes’ song, more akin to the Pentatonix version than the original, which made it special. Right from the start, the harmonies were beautiful, and their interpretation excellent.
We then heard New Born Child (a Boswell/Amar song, I think, from the film, Le Premier Cri, where it was sung by Sinéad O’Connor) a beautiful and difficult piece, which was very moving and other-worldly.
Next was an amazing version of The Little Drummer Boy, which showed the heights to which a choir can go when you arrange a well-known hymn into something almost ethereal. This was a beautiful arrangement, with the choir showing their virtuosity and command of their medium.The timing was also perfect. Kudos to Mr Packham.
An unusual piece, with vocal harmonies and no words came next, accompanied by piano and violin. I’m afraid I don’t have a name for this, but must say that it was also extremely well executed, showing the choir’s voice control and synchronisation with each other and with their talented conductor/director.
We stood up for Silent Night next, and again, we could have sat down, because the main work was done by Glória, with our efforts bringing up the rear.
O Magnum Mysterium was another standout this year, in an exquisite rendering that seemed to fill the cathedral with something other than sound, where perfect harmonies lifted us out of the ordinary, and into another world, hard to let go of when the piece came to an end.
We were treated to Walking In The Air next, where the singing was so pure and sweet, you could forget that you were listening to a physical choir who did not have the benefit of being digitised, and would have to wonder where such a beautiful sound came from.
The tantalising Breath of Heaven followed, a beautiful piece with a wonderful female solo, which ranged from soft to strong, and again softly, ending with exquisite violin.
The Bareilles/Michaelson song, A Winter Song, was next – really beautiful, with piano and violin accompaniment, and showed just how polished and professional the choir has become. “Is love alive?” it asks, and this rendering would certainly have you answering in the affirmative, and hoping for it not to end, just yet.
The Christmas classic, O Come All Ye Faithful, kindly included the audience again, and we were at pains to do it, and the choir, justice. From there, Glória went into the beautiful, harmonious and ethereal, Hosanna In Excelsis.
The popular song section came next, comprising a lovely, light arrangement of Santa Clause Is Coming To Town, then the harmonious and light, Go To Bethlehem, Sing Noel sung with a sweet, jazzy arrangement, and then back to the audience for Hark The Herald Angels Sing.
The last section comprised a beautiful and sublime version of White Christmas, and Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, where the vocal harmonies brought it to a new level, Ring Christmas Bells, which is so much part of the choir by now, its unaccompanied and light harmonies again overlapping perfectly, and finally, the joyful, Gloria In Excelsis Deo, a heavenly rendering where you could hear a pin drop, and which gave the impression of a much larger choir, the organ also deepening the spiritual dimension of the piece.
Although this was supposed to be the last offering of the evening, the crowd wanted more, and Mr Packham and the choir did not disappoint!
The encore piece was O Holy Night, much to the delight of the audience, who clearly did not want to leave on that particular holy night!
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