Review: CLIC Sargent Carol Concert

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Sargent Cancer Care for Children was set up in 1968. It began operating in London and gradually spread its operations throughout the UK. Its aim is to provide immediate support for children who are suffering from cancer. In 2005, the fund merged with Cancer and Leukaemia in Childhood.

Solo clarinetist Emma Johnson, who won the BBC’s Young Musician of the Year award in 1984, is a patron of the charity. She and the Mary Erskine and Stewart’s Melville Junior School Choir joined forces with the Lothian Hospitals Choir to offer a programme of Christmas music.

The Lothian Hospitals Choir comes together once a year – for the Christmas carol concert. Despite that infrequency, conductor Timothy Dean has established a good measure of choral discipline among his choristers. They produce a pleasant sound over a wide range of dynamics. Some of their contributions were unaccompanied, others were supported by Thistle Brass, an ensemble that originated in the Royal Scottish Academy of Music nearly ten years ago.

After a brass fanfare, the evening opened, according to tradition, with Once in Royal David’s City. The familiar descant by David Willcocks was confidently projected by the sopranos in the last verse. Three choral items followed, of which the Sussex Carol stood out as exceptional.

Accompanied by Anthony Hewitt, Emma Johnson opened her account with a dazzling display of clarinet technique in Giamperi’s Carnival of Venice. More seriously, she followed on with the slow movement of Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet [K 581]. Her audience was held spellbound throughout both pieces.

After the interval, no fewer than 120 pupils of Mary Erskine and Daniel Stewart’s Junior School made their orderly way on to the platform as the evening’s guest choir. They sang with brightness and enthusiasm. In particular, their last item, Showbiz Snowman!, demonstrated just how good they are.

Emma Johnson paid tribute to Gershwin with a selection of his most familiar tunes, and the choir’s Lil’ David Play on Your Harp in Sir Malcolm Sargent’s arrangement served as a reminder of the musician after whom the CLIC charity is named.

Rating: 4/5