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Michael White’s music news: Messiahs; Christmas Festival at St John’s Smith Square

06 December, 2019 — By Michael White

The Choir of Westminster Abbey

‘ Tis the season and all that …which means the seasonal Messiahs start this week; and if you want to take your dose before malaise sets in, there are performances on Friday 6th at St John’s Smith Square SW1; on Monday 9th at the Temple Church EC4, and on Thurs 12th at the Festival Hall SE1 (a big one, involving Highgate Choral Society), all at 7.30pm.

But if you want a choral experience less obvious and more select, consider the Christmas Festival starting this weekend at St John’s Smith Square. It pulls in some of the best choirs in the country, performing back to back so you can compare, contrast, and decide for yourself who gets the current laurels.

Sunday 8th has The Cardinall’s Musick singing Italian Renaissance music for the season.

On Monday 9th Solomon’s Knot sing Charpentier’s Christmas Oratorio.

Tuesday 10th brings Christ Church Oxford, a choir that’s always pleased to sing away-dates in more resonant acoustics than the dead, dry sound of Christ Church.

Wednesday 11th has Britten’s loveable St Nicolas sung by London Choral Sinfonia. And Thursday 12th has arguably the best out-of-London secular choir, the Birmingham-based Ex Cathedra, in one of their always fascinatingly eclectic programmes. All at 7.30pm.

There will be more (much more) of this next week.

And meanwhile, if you want a Christmas music jamboree with full-sized symphony orchestra, head over to the Albert Hall on Wednesday 11th where the grand master of seasonal music John Rutter conducts the RPO and massed voices in a rousing medley, much of it composed by his good self. The programme repeats 3pm and 7.30pm.



Other concerts this week


• Medieval music group The Telling explore the story of carols. 7.30pm, £9.21-£13.52, Holy Trinity, Granville Road, Stroud Green, N4.



• A new children’s dance-opera, The Lost Thing by Jules Maxwell, premieres at the Linbury Theatre, downstairs at the Royal Opera House. 2.15pm, £7-£35. Age 6+. Runs to Jan 4. Bow Street, WC2E 9DD, 020 7304 4000,

• Everybody’s favourite baritone Roderick Williams joins the Nash Ensemble for music by Schubert & Schumann. 7.30pm, £15+,Wigmore Hall, 36 Wigmore Street, W1U 2BP, 020 7935 2141,

• The all-girls’ choir of St Catherine’s College, Cambridge – a rarity on the collegiate circuit – sing Christmas music, most of it by women. 7.30pm, £14.50+, Kings Place, 90 York Way, N1 9AG, 020 7520 1490,



• Chamber group Insieme give their Christmas soirée at Lauderdale House, N6 5HG. 6.30pm, £16, £14 cons. 020 8348 8716,

• Mendelssohn’s Old Testament oratorio Elijah. 6.30pm, £18, NW Reform Synagogue, Alyth Gardens, NW11 7EN, tickets:

• 50th anniversary performance of Gavin Bryars’ The Sinking of the Titanic – a piece that re-enacts the story of the band playing as the ship went down. Glug. 7pm, £18.50+, Kings Place, 90 York Way, N1 9AG, 020 7520 1490,

• Illustrious mezzo Alice Coote comes to NWLondon, with no less illustrious pianist Julius Drake, for a (female!) performance of Schubert’s seasonally appropriate song cycle Winterreise. 7pm, £30 (£50 with supper), Razumovsky Academy, 50 College Road, NW10.



• Antonio Pappano conducts Keith Warner’s slightly drab but serviceable production of Otello. Ermonela Jaho and Gregory Kunde star. 7.30pm, Royal Opera House. Runs to Dec 22. Bow Street, WC2E 9DD, 020 7304 4000,

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