MORPETH ROTARY CLUB
It was one of the coldest nights of the winter so far as more than 200 people gathered at Morpeth Methodist Church to warm their hearts with some seasonal music.
Old favourite the Ellington Colliery Brass Band had agreed to put on the Christmas fund-raising concert for Morpeth Rotary, with new Musical Director Clare Winter making a first appearance at this event.
Everyone was welcomed by Rotary President Peter Scott, including Morpeth Mayor Nic Best and Mayoress Joan Howard.
The charity supported this year was the Mercy Ships organisation, which brings free medical care to the poorest parts of Africa.
The musicians welcomed the audience with a grand opening where eight boys and girls from the Brass Roots young person’s training band fired a battery of toy wooden pop guns in unison, producing the sound of a mass of exploding Christmas crackers.
The band then charged in with A Christmas Festival by Leroy Anderson.
The audience was challenged to spot how many carols and other tunes were in the medley. Only a few got the right answer of nine carols and a Jingle Bells.
The versatility of band members was quickly shown with a wonderful euphonium solo by Stephen Frost playing Ding Dong Merrily On High. The tune had started as a medieval French dance, but was turned into a popular choral piece in 1924.
Ms Winter is an energetic and enthusiastic conductor, and had only just enough breath left to say that she was proud of band members who had already been working for two hours and would be out again performing the next day.
Everyone joined in with the next carol — O Come, All Ye Faithful.
Referring to the recent royal engagement, the musicians finished the first half with All I Want For Christmas Is You. It had been sung in the 2003 film Love Actually by a young American girl performer who gets together with a British boy.
Most of the band went off for a break, but that was partly to make enough room on the stage for 12 members of the youth band, supported by some of the adults and a conductor.
They played a tuneful medley of Christmas songs, music from The Snowman and a mixture of Jingle Bells and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen to a reggae and rock and roll beat.
Interested young people were invited to go along to Brass Roots practice nights at Chantry Middle School on Wednesdays, from 6pm.
Following a short interval the second half began with a staged version of O Come, O Come Emmanuel.
It started with three young girls from the training band singing, before moving on to a powerful organ solo and then being taken up by the full band.
Appropriate to the Methodist Church, the music merged into John Wesley’s Advent hymn Lo He Comes.
Ms Winter reminded everyone that 2017 was also a time of commemoration for the First World War and the Battle of Passchendaele.
She then introduced a thoughtful and moving sequence of music, accompanied by short readings from Carol Anne Duffy’s poem The Christmas Truce.
Young people gave out candles to the audience and set some out in front of the stage.
Music took the form of The Candlelight Carol by John Rutter, In the Bleak Midwinter, Silent Night and The First Noel.
The readings were by Rotarian Alan Barron.
There was a change of mood at this point as Ms Winter introduced some democratic audience participation.
Earlier she had asked the audience to vote on which of three Christmas songs should be performed. The votes had been counted and the winning music was Rocking Around The Christmas Tree.
It was a signal for the band to put on elf hats and antlers, while Ms Winter, in her designer dress, dashed off and a full size reindeer came in to conduct the piece.
At the end of the music the reindeer took its head off and turned out to be the musical director herself.
She conducted another catchy Wesley carol, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, before talking about the band, the junior band and friends and supporters, including the evening’s audience, being part of a supportive musical family.
The band was supporting the Jo Cox Foundation as its charity during Christmas.
The concert finished with a fine rendition of Gaudete, but the audience were enjoying it too much to let the performers get away without an encore and Auld Land Syne ended the musical part of the evening.
Peter Scott thanked everyone for coming and wished them a safe journey home.
This excellent and entertaining evening was followed by refreshments prepared by Morpeth Rotary Inner Wheel.
The next meeting of Morpeth Rotary Club will be a council meeting on Monday, followed by a business meeting on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, January 16 there will be the annual Three-Way Quiz. This fiercely contested competition will this year see the town’s Rotary, Inner Wheel and Lions clubs vying for the title and honour of quiz champions. It takes place at Morpeth Golf Club, at 5.45pm.
On Tuesday, January 23, the Rotary Club members will gather for a traditional Burns Supper.
And in February there will be the club’s 80th anniversary celebrations and President’s Night at the Holiday Inn, Seaton Burn.