Traditional carols and more than a hint of Dickens

Henley Choral Society


On Tuesday, in front of a packed house at St Mary’s Church, the Henley Choral Society returned to tradition after last year’s break with carol service format, introducing a Dickensian theme to coincide with the novelist’s bicentenary year. The conductor was Musical Director Will Dawes, Jonathan White the accompanist. A collection was made in aid of the Footsteps Foundation.


Presented with the suggestion that Charles Dickens was almost entirely responsible for Christmas as we know it, we were treated to a carefully balanced programme of traditional carols (with audience participation) and lesser-known choir-only pieces. These were interspersed with tongue-in-cheek readings from Dickens’ novels and John Julius Norwich’s hilarious letters written by the hapless recipient of the gifts described in The Twelve Days of Christmas.


No feast of carols is complete without Away in a Manger. HCS, together with St Mary’s primary school choir, duly obliged. The children, directed by Sarah White, also performed three lively contemporary Christmas songs with confidence and charm.


The choral highlights were David Willcocks’ rousing arrangement of Jingle, bells, Holst’s Four Old English Carols and Christmas Day and Parry’s Welcome, Yule!. In these, Henley Choral Society demonstrated their sensitivity and adaptability. The sopranos were especially strong, setting a high benchmark and providing impetus and drive. The choir’s great sense of fun culminated in a lively We wish you a Merry Christmas.


HCS’s next concert on 23 February 2013 features works by Vivaldi, Haydn, Mozart and Czech composer Zelenka. Interested singers should call Wendy Hawkins on 01491 576929.