REVIEW: Sheffield’s Christmas concert tradition

SHEFFIELD PHILHARMONIC CHORUS/ BLACK DYKE BAND, CITY HALL

Review by Philip Andrews Sheffield Telegraph Tuesday, 17th December 2019, 5:32 pm

Christmas music may have been playing in your supermarket since September but the season in Sheffield doesn’t really get under way until the City Hall’s annual Christmas concert.

To get us in festive mood this year, Phil director Darius Battiwalla put together an eclectic programme of familiar carols, a couple of gems from the rich store of Sheffield carols and a brand new piece written to raise money to help the homeless. He even arranged the curtain raiser – the familiar O Come, O Come Emmanual – for the trio of forces which combined so well throughout this concert – choir, brass band and the City Hall’s mighty organ, played here by Neil Taylor.

Professor Nicholas Childs, conductor of Black Dyke Band

Black Dyke’s offerings, under their musical director Nicholas Childs, ranged from the ever-popular Winter Wonderland, via a couple of familiar medleys to A Christmas Carol, by the talented young composer Matt Eden, who specialises in new pieces for brass band.

Paul Fincham’s affecting new carol Ring the Bells was commissioned a couple of years ago by the London Philharmonic Choir to raise awareness of homelessness, and delicately handled here by their Sheffield namesakes in what may have been its first performance in the city. Let’s hope it is not the last, as all the royalties from the piece are donated to the homeless charity, Crisis.

The only downside to what has now become an eagerly-anticipated Sheffield Christmas tradition was the disappointing audience figure for the evening performance, which had been brought forward this year to a tea-time start.

Link to the review in Sheffield Telegraph online

Composer to hear Black Dyke Band and massed voices perform his new work

8 June 2019

Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus are thrilled that the composer Philip Wilby will be in attendance at the forthcoming concert premiere of the brass band version of his oratorio The Holy Face at the City Hall at 3pm on Sunday 9 June 2019. The Chorus will be joined by the Black Dyke Band, Halifax Choral Society, the Yorkshire Youth Choir and four great soloists for this very special concert.

‘The Holy Face was written for massed voices, organ and either brass band or orchestra.’ said Chorus Chairman Paul Henstridge. ‘We are really looking forward to singing this musical retelling of the life of St John with our friends the Halifax Choral Society, who commissioned it to celebrate their 200th Anniversary in 2017.’

‘We are really committed to making classical music accessible to young people’ said Chorus administrator Anne Adams ‘So we have sent out a really generous ticket offer to all the brass training bands, our Sheffield-based youth orchestras, all the secondary schools and the Sheffield Music Hub and Music Academy. Seven members of the Black Dyke Band have agreed to meet Sheffield’s young brass players after the concert – how fantastic is that!’

The brass version of The Holy Face was recorded in June 2017, and the orchestral premiere held in Halifax later that year. The CD is available from Halifax Choral Society’s website.

Also on the programme is Paradise, a fabulous new work by Welsh-born composer Paul Mealor, who sprang to fame in 2011 when his Ubi Caritas was featured at the wedding of the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge. Paradise is a beautiful piece for brass band and voices which the chorus recorded in January with the world-famous Black Dyke Band in Sheffield’s own City Hall. The recording has been published as part of the Black Dyke Gold series – and composer Paul Mealor is thrilled with it. ‘I am very impressed.’ said Paul on hearing the CD. ‘It’s a fantastic recording of the work.’

The piece features two elements sung by the Chorus alongside the Black Dyke Band, sandwiching a central section of fiendish difficulty showcasing the band’s incredible virtuosity. The Chorus first sang Paradise in January at the Brass Band Festival held each year at the Royal Northern School of Music in Manchester, a performance that was broadcast on BBC Radio 3.

The concert begins with another work by Philip Wilby, his organ concerto Cinema, written for organ and brass band, and featuring Chorus Music Director and Leeds City Organist Darius Battiwalla on the magnificent City Hall organ.

Tickets are available from the City Hall box office.