What better a way to embrace the true essence of Christmas in the city of London than by attending one of the many sing-along services hosted by the UK’s beloved capital. Each and every year carollers and kindred spirits gather in their masses to celebrate the christmas season with a festive song, and on the evening of 20th December St Martin in the Field became home to such an event, The Joys of Christmas.
St Martin in the Fields
Designed by James Gibbs and consecrated in 1726, St Martin in the Field has grown to become one of London’s most famous churches. Situated conveniently centrally, adjacent to Trafalgar Square, St Martin’s is an innovative Christian church that over the decades has adapted its work to the needs of the community. Since 1948 the church has worked in an official capacity to fight against homelessness, directly helping 7500 people every year. Last year alone its annual appeal raised almost £900,000 to contribute towards such worthy causes. The church is equally well known for its rich musical itinerary that includes lunchtime repertoires, evening concerts, children’s workshops, masterclasses and the ever popular Jazz in the Crypt.
The Perfect Setting for a Christmas Concert
As delicate flakes began to fall from the wintry skies above, a taster of seasonal snow flurries yet to come and cause chaos to christmas commuters, visitors to and residents of London alike headed into the church for their festive fill. Elegantly decorated with simple evergreen boughs, plush berry-red bows and modest, twinkling votives, St Martin in the Field offered the perfect concert setting – warm, welcoming, atmospheric and serene.
Light Through the DarkThe theme of the evening, explained Reverend David Jackson, was finding light in darkness – a concept highlighting the hope, forgiveness, acceptance and appreciation that Christmas entails and at the same time one which appeals to every individual irregardless of age, education, ethnicity or socioeconomic standing. Readings included Joseph Brodsky’s A Poem for Christmas, Richard Crashaw’s Day in Darkness and T.S. Eliot’s Journey of the Magi.
The Joys of Christmas
Enter the choir, smartly dressed in black with the odd festive splash of red, fully braced to entertain and enlighten their audience. As the singing began, the dulcet tones of twenty-two worthy voices proved enough to soothe away the most stubborn city stress.
A pleasing mixture of traditional and contemporary, the evening’s programme provided a feast for the ears, beginning with a calming Lux Aurumque. Minutes in and the hustle and bustle of central London felt a million miles away as the day’s accumulated tensions gradually dissipated. Even the choristers themselves were rhythmically swaying, as if being cradled off to sleep, during Sing Lullaby. Other choral delights were Bogoroditsye Dyevo by Serge Rachmaninov, Mirabile Dichi by Sasha Johnson Manning and classic carols such as the enchanting Away in a Manger and a bounding, energetic rendition of I Saw Three Ships. In addition, the audience was delighted by the first ever performance of The shepherds sing; and I shall I silent be? by Matthew Wood, himself a member of the choir.
The line-up was interspersed with a spattering of jovial brass solos including the haunting Carol of the Bells and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, chock-full of jazzy twists and unexpected harmonies. There was plenty of opportunity for the audience to stretch their lungs, exercise their vocal chords and sing along and the evening drew to a close the choir rounded it off with a generous, bright and humorous We Wish You a Merry Christmas.