On the evening of December 9th 2017, St James the Great in Cradley hosted a concert of “Music for Kings and Queens” given by Cradley Singers under their musical director Kate Cheetham. The programme began in fine ceremonial style with a rousing performance of Handel’s coronation anthem “The King Shall Rejoice” accompanied by Colin Myles on organ. This was followed by the allegro moderato from the same composer’s Harp Concerto in B flat, adroitly played by our harpist for the evening, Shelley Fairplay. Two contrasting choral pieces followed, Purcell’s sombre funeral sentence “Remember, Lord, Not Our Offences”, and John Bennett’s Gloriana madrigal “All Creatures Now”. Treble soloist Robert Foskett then sang “How Beautiful Are The Feet” from Handel’s Messiah and the choir returned to sing the Choral Dances from Benjamin Britten’s opera Gloriana. Composed for the newly-crowned Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, this was one of Britten’s few critical failures and is now rarely performed in its entirety. Nonetheless it has enriched the mainstream repertoire with the challenging and enigmatic Choral Dances for unaccompanied chorus, as well as the instrumental Courtly Dances. The first half of the concert was rounded off with William Walton’s stately warhorse of a march “Crown Imperial”, played with energy and panache by Kate Cheetham and Colin Myles in an arrangement for piano four hands.
The second half of the concert consisted of Britten’s Ceremony of Carols, a much loved sequence of music both familiar and less familiar with a beautiful and atmospheric harp accompaniment, ably played by Shelley Fairplay. Choir and audience then finished the evening with a pair of carols, “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “We Wish You A Merry Christmas”.
Perhaps surprisingly, this was the first concert given by Cradley Singers in Cradley Church ! Thanks are due to Rector Reverend Robert Ward and the Churchwardens for the use of a splendid and commodious venue.