‘A Georgian Christmas’ : Music from Christmas Past

A damp, dank December afternoon at Holme Pierrepont brought that annual oasis of civilised entertainment in the chaos of modern Christmas: MDD’s ‘A Georgian Christmas’ concert. The Hall was as welcoming as ever – elegant Christmas trees, beautiful flower arrangements, fires, mulled wine, and mince pies – almost Dickensian!

As always MDD managed to find an unsung composer – this time John Baston whose Concerto No 5 in C for soprano recorder was played with style and aplomb by Wendy; and again, as always, a neat piece of musicology with four versions of ‘In Dulce Jubilo’, concluding with an hilariously slow version by Bach, obviously written after a long, hard day looking after all the children, and a heavy meal with at least one bottle of good German wine!

The celebration of the anniversaries of the start of the Georgian era, and of Christmas meant a lot of Handel. The concert came alive with the performance of his Concerto Grosso Op.6 No 1 which was played with great élan by all the performers from the moment they launched into it with such infectious rhythmic ‘attack’.

Another feature of MDD’s concerts is their inclusion of some composers who might be considered second rate, so we were treated to bonbons from Shield and Arne who can be too easily sidelined. Michael ‘quaffed’ and ‘blow blow’ed’ with his usual style and clarity of diction.

It was splendid to hear Gareth as soloist again – he made the CPE Bach seem easy (which it can’t be) and hugely entertaining. Hint, hint, Gareth and Wendy: Haydn wrote some lovely cello concertos…!! And, suitably for the pantomime season, Cinderella got to the ball – the harpsichord emerged from the kitchen of the continuo into the limelight and Katharine’s stylish performance of Bach’s Allegro di molto from Op 5 No 2, showed just what the instrument can do in the hands of a skilled performer.

The capacity audience was in good voice (should we have been the final item perhaps?) and we all emerged onto the flight path through the darkened formal garden in a glow of pleasure from another varied, enjoyable and impeccably played concert.

Anthony Dam

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