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Festive food for body and soul in Kingston upon Thames on 10 December

For a double measure of Christmas spirit, warmed by a cup of spicy Glühwein, step straight from a German-style Christmas market into the church for a classic seasonal concert with full choir and orchestra.

The market is inspired by Germany’s largest Christmas market in Berlin and aims to become the largest town centre Christmas event in the UK. The concert, with the Thames Philharmonic Choir and Thames Festival Orchestra, features the Christmas music from Handel’s Messiah, two Renaissance settings of Hodie Christus Natus est (‘Today Christ is Born’), and a medley of lively carol arrangements by 20th-century English composer Bryan Kelly.

Kingston Parish Church, which commands one side of the Market Square – the heart of the Christmas Market – is transformed into a concert venue, with concert staging for choir and orchestra. “The church has a strong musical tradition”, said concert musical director John Bate. “It opted to invest, for example, in a top-quality organ made by the acclaimed Danish makers Frobenius. It is also welcoming, friendly… and warm, since the installation of underfloor heating!”

Bate has a special connection with the borough as former Director of Music Performance at Kingston University, and members of the choir that he founded are drawn from the boroughs of Kingston, Richmond and Wandsworth.

Good Planning

Time your Christmas warm-up so that you can feast on the market stalls in the afternoon (trading until 8pm) as choir and orchestra, with soloists from the Royal College of Music, rehearse for the evening concert. (Members of the public are welcome to drop into listen to the rehearsal at no charge). Then, after that cup of spiced wine, perhaps, move into the church to ‘sit and let the sounds of music creep in our ears’ – William Shakespeare’s words from The Merchant of Venice, set to music by Vaughan Williams. This sets the musical scene for the concert, but also just fits into the 400th anniversary year of Shakespeare’s death.

The first setting of Hodie Christus Natus Est , by 16th-early 17th-century Italian composer, Giovanni Gabrieli, contrasts with lively carols by 20th-century English composer Brian Kelly. Gabrieli’s Dutch contemporary Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck opens the second half of the concert with a merrier version of Hodie Christus Natus Est. Sweelinck was the first major composer for organ, so it is appropriate that the (very expensive) Kingston organ is said to be ‘one of the finest in the country’ – listen out for the “beautiful flutes’! The Christmas music from Handel’s Messiah provides a glorious climax to send you home reeling with Christmas spirit.

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