“A Cambridge Christmas”: Concert by the Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge in the Philharmonie, 15 December, 2023

This concert was originally planned for a couple of years ago but had to be postponed because of Covid, so the Society was very pleased that the Choir was able finally to come to Luxembourg, together with the internationally renowned organist Thomas Trotter, to present a delightful programme of Christmas music to a packed audience in the Philharmonie. Her Excellency Fleur Thomas, the British Ambassador, attended the concert.

The Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge was founded in 1670 and consists of choristers and pupils of St John’s College School and adult choristers who are students in the University of Cambridge. It is one of the finest choirs of the University and enjoys an international reputation for the quality of its recordings and concert performances. Its principal objective is to support and enrich the liturgy and daily services in the Chapel of St John’s College, but it tours internationally several times a year. The current Director of Music is Christopher Gray.

The Choir performed a range of traditional and modern Christmas works and carols, starting with the beautiful “O Holy Night” by Adolphe Adam which provided the opportunity for two young treble soloists to delight the audience with their pure voices. Other featured composers were Sweelinck, Mendelssohn, Tamsin Jones, and Herbert Howells. Thomas Trotter accompanied many of these works playing the organ of the Philharmonie, and at the end of Part 1 and beginning of Part 2 he played substantial works by Parry, Edmundson, Bach and Mendelssohn. We were able to fully appreciate why Thomas Trotter is considered one of the world’s finest organists. Many of the concert-goers remarked how much they appreciated that he played from the remote organ console placed on the stage of the Philharmonie so that he was close to Choir, which also meant that we were able to observe more closely his extraordinary skill as an organist.

As an encore – there were more than one! – the a cappella Gents’ of St John’s sent us off full of lively Christmas spirit with a superb rendering of “Jingle Bells” in the style of the Kings’ Singers! Marvellous!!

The standing ovation from the audience was very well deserved.

The Director General of the Philharmonie had very generously authorised the Society to organise a reception for the adult members of the Choir and Thomas Trotter, members of the Society who attended the concert, the Ambassador and a couple of guests from the Philharmonie in the magnificent Grand Foyer of the concert hall. Everyone was buzzing after the concert so the reception was a huge success. The Gents performed splendidly two more a cappella Christmas songs for us, which were much appreciated not only by the participants, but also by the several concert-goers who had stayed on in the Foyer after the concert.

This was one of the highlights of what was a busy 2023 for the Cambridge Society. The Philharmonie is apparently very pleased with the success of the concert, which was sold out, and they are already talking to the Choir’s administrators about a return visit. We should suggest to them that there are other outstanding Cambridge choirs which they should also consider!

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