Dorset Legend Rediscovered For Christmas Choral Concert

Wessex Consort Lytchett
Wessex Consort Lytchett

7th Dec 2017 Lighthouse Poole

It’s an old West Country tradition that, whether they are in stalls or in the field, farm animals kneel to honour the birth of Jesus at midnight on Christmas Eve. So fond was Thomas Hardy of the story that as well as including it in his novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles, it also inspired him to write his poem ‘The Oxen’ in 1915.

More than a century later and acclaimed cathedral choir Wessex Consort are to include an original musical setting of ‘The Oxen’ in two very special festive concert performances on Thursday 7 December entitled A Real Dorset Christmas at Lighthouse, Poole and St Mary’s Church, West Moors.

The twelve vibrant singers of Wessex Consort are widely recognised as rising stars in choral music circles and were brought together under their distinguished conductor, the early music tenor Andrew King, to sing new choral works by Dorset composer Graham Stansfield as well as to revive some more traditional pieces.

The festive programme covers the 500-year history of traditional carols for Advent, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and beyond with beautiful arrangements of favourites such as ‘O Little Town’ and ‘I Saw Three Ships’ as well as ‘The Oxen’ and ‘Why Is the Baby Crying?’ based on Wendy Cope’s poem. The choir will also perform an original carol by Graham ‘I Am the Cat Who Heard His Mother Singing’.

“I want to showcase the chronology of carols from Advent, through Christmas Day and Boxing Day, as well as celebrate the many glories of our delightful home county using that uniquely English choral sound,” says Graham, who was a chorister at the Coronation in 1953 and went on to write the international chart topping single ‘Sympathy’ for the band Rare Bird in 1970.

The lunchtime carol concert at Lighthouse begins at 1pm and the evening performance at St Mary’s is from 7.30pm and, as well as the carols, will also include musical portraits of Dorset landmarks such as Lulworth Cove, and Dorset life as portrayed in the poetry of Thomas Hardy.

Wessex Consort’s album ‘A Choir For All Seasons’ was released on Aeterna Records last year and follows up their debut recording, 2015’s ‘’Tis Christmastide’. Both feature a broad mix of classical repertoire and Graham’s genre-crossing compositions, perhaps heard to greatest effect on the vocal tour de force ‘Gastronomic’ that pays tribute to the young singers’ cooking abilities as well as their fondness for clubbing on their rare free nights.

Tickets for the lunchtime concert are £8 and can be booked at lighthousepoole.co.uk, or on 01202 280000. Tickets for the evening concert at St Mary’s Church are £8 on the door and include refreshments.