21 of the best Christmas carol concerts in Hertfordshire
PUBLISHED: 17:28 05 December 2016 | UPDATED: 17:28 05 December 2016
Geoffrey Robinson / Alamy Stock Photo
The popularity of TV series such as The Choir and Glee shows that group singing has a new-found voice. Sandra Smith looks at the strong line-up of Herts choirs ready to give you (and them) that festive feeling
‘Singing is a soul experience, connecting the inside of us to the outside world. And it’s good for you – a combination of physical, emotional and spiritual. Some of my choir members think of their weekly rehearsals as therapy!’
Charlie Thompson didn’t believe he could sing until he was encouraged to join a choir in order to boost the male–female ratio. This experience, far more enjoyable than he’d anticipated, also revealed a talent for arranging and prompted him to establish an a cappella group of his own.
The Big Herts Choir Gathering on December 4 in Hitchin, featuring Charlie’s two choirs – Hitchin Allstars and Global Harmony, based in St Albans – is just one of numerous festive choir events taking place across the county in a variety of venues.
While for audiences these performances celebrate Christmas, harmony and joy, for choir members they are perhaps even more beneficial – exercising the diaphragm and promoting the subsequent release of euphoria-inducing endorphins. And that could be a key to the growing popularity of choirs.
‘A lot of people don’t think of themselves as singers,’ Charlie says, ‘but maybe they have never had the opportunity. Singing is primal as well as liberating. And it’s almost better if you can’t read music, as everything is done by ear.’
Festive songs such as the 1934 classic Winter Wonderland and Stevie Wonder’s 1967 What Christmas Means to Me will feature at Cassiobury Park on December 11, courtesy of Watford Rock Choir. Leader Abigail Harris, a trained opera singer and pianist who once waltzed with the ‘nation’s favourite choirmaster’, Gareth Malone, during a Royal Academy of Music movement class, says new members have nothing to fear.
‘It’s a time to switch off’ she says. ‘Everyone is welcome and no auditions are necessary unless someone wants to perform a solo. People can even hide at the back if they want. I teach line-by-line and build up layers to get a wonderful, big sound. There’s also basic choreography – sway, click and clap.’
Her 100-strong choir attracts all ages, including three generations of one family who continue to sing in the car on their drive home. Some of Abigail’s early tutors are now members and, like them, she says she leaves each rehearsal on a high.
At Haileybury College chapel, a large Christmas tree will add to the festive aura on December 18 when one of the county’s largest choirs, Herts Chorus, performs.
Music director David Temple oozes pride for his choir. ‘Singing is one of the most pleasurable activities of all – a mixture of something physical as well as beautiful music and a sense of togetherness which helps how you feel about life,’ he says. ‘Our real calling-card is the quality of the chorus. We have some fantastic amateur singers. There are lots of London premier-league choirs and I believe Herts Chorus is very much deserving to be in that league too. Musically, that’s where we’re heading.’
The choir takes on all manner of musical works during the year and this month’s concert consists of a mix of hymns, carols and pop music.
Harpenden Station isn’t an obvious stage on which to showcase music, but the 35-strong Kings of Herts Barbershop Chorus is nevertheless brimming with enthusiasm for its forthcoming event. Established more than 30 years ago by a small group with an interest in singing, the Harpenden-based group will sing carols at the station on December 16 in aid of Rennie Grove Hospice.
‘Our chorus is predominantly men of a certain age,’ smiles member Alan Bonham. ‘We have good fun. Traditional barbershop has been around for 100 years and is becoming increasingly popular at universities.’
With the county resonating with festive music throughout December and regardless of whether you favour traditional tunes and spiritual venues or contemporary works in public spaces, don’t miss out on one of the highlights of the season.
Who knows, you might even be tempted to sign up yourself.
Christmas choir diary
Hertford Rock Choir, All Saints, Hertford
Herts Community Youth Choir, Hampton Park Community Centre, Stevenage
Berkhamsted Choral Society, St Peter’s, Berkhamsted
Big Herts Choir Gathering, Tilehouse Street Baptist Church, Hitchin
The Ridgeway Chorale, All Saints, Long Marston
Chipperfield Choral Society, St Paul’s, Chipperfield
The Chiltern Choir, Chorleywood Memorial Hall
Garden City Singers, Letchworth Free Church
Bishop’s Stortford Choral Society, Methodist Church, Bishop’s Stortford
St Albans Bach Choir, St Albans Cathedral
St Albans Choral Society, Methodist church, St Albans
Watford Rock Choir, Cassiobury Park, Watford
The Kings of Herts, Harpenden Station
Stevenage Choral Society, St Martin’s, Knebworth
Royston Choral Society, Royston parish church
Radlett Choral Society, Christ Church, Radlett
North Herts Guild of Singers, St Mary’s, Hitchin
Tring Choral Society, St Peter and St Paul, Tring
Herts Community Youth Choir, United Reformed church, Stevenage
Kings Langley Choir, Marlowes shopping centre, Hemel Hempstead
Hertfordshire Chorus, Haileybury College Chapel, Herford Heath