Monday, 19 December 2011

Voices ringing through snow

The Feral Choir performing 'Forgotten Carols'
'Snow is sometimes a she, a soft one.
Her kiss on your cheek, her finger on your sleeve
In early December, on a warm evening,
And you turn to meet her, saying "It's snowing!"
But it is not. And nobody's there.
Empty and calm is the air.'

(Ted Hughes, from 'Snow and Snow')

We drove through snow to get there.  The woods were draped white in the headlights and the car, laden with our three generations, slithered rather on the bends above Balmaclellan.  At The CatStrand the theatre was packed with people hastily stripping off many outer layers while they compared notes about dodgy road conditions.

But in moments we were immersed in an evening of warm, intoxicating song and reading. The richness of mixed voices, expertly trained and conducted by Ali Burns, the sense of time past and re-evoked, was just wonderful.  Wendy Stewart's harp was marvellous with the voice of the singer Richard Trethewey, whose sense of rhythm was also completely engrossing - I loved the version of the ancient 'Come and I will Sing You' - incantatory, deeply strange, puckish.  The Boar's Head Carol, first published in the 1520s, but known to be older still, raised the little hairs on the back of my neck. 

Tom Pow made the readings resonate with their own strength, never overplaying where the words do it all, as in Charles Causley's 'Innocents Song', which ends:

'Watch where he comes walking
Out of the Christmas flame,
Dancing, double-talking:

Herod is his name.'

- but Tom's telling of a royal icing incident taken from 'Let Me Eat Cake: A Life Lived Sweetly' by Paul Arnott, actually disturbed the admirable poise and discipline of the choir members.  The audience had given up completely and when the aforesaid icing defeated male pride armed with a sterilised woodsaw, we simply collapsed in giggles.

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