Annual Carol Concert, St. Stephen's Methodist Church, Cannock, Friday 21st December 2018

Conducted by Craig Williams

The geese had got as fat as they were going to get.

The carols has sung their last note - almost!

And the Winter temperatures had reached a balmy 10 degrees C!

But it was still raining at a dash, by the time the Members (and Friends) of The Staffordshire Band made their way to their final Christmas Concert of 2018 - at St. Stephen's Methodist Church in Cannock - and a Full House was assured, once again!

The Band were the Guests of the St. Steven's Choir, as always.

Almost on time, the Band almost trooped onto their 'stage', with the Front Row as close as close could be to the audience, which completely filled the 'body' of the Church once again.....

A great night was about to begin...........

The Concert started with a fine rendition by all present of 'O Come All Ye Faithful', before the St. Stephen's Choir started their first set with 'Ring-a-Ding-a-Ding and 'Still, Still, Still', lead by their Conductor, Pauline Gooch. 'Away in a Manger' followed, sung by 'All' (whoever 'All' was!). The Choir returned with 'Navity Carol' and 'It Was Poor Little Jesus', before the Band were introduced.............

Christmas Festival by Leroy Anderson, set the tone for the evening. Led by the ebullient Craig Williams, who's first Concert at St. Stephen's this was, the Band lit up the Church with a fine selection of carol favourites. The audience were amazed and the volume ringing out at the end, proved the point - they were going to really, really enjoy the Band! Overture from ‘The Nutcracker’ by Tchaikovsky arranged by Denis Wright followed and even the children present were getting into the tone of the evening, even those on the Front Row, closest to the decibels! Bringing in the non-existant white stuff, the Band presented The Snowman by Howard Blake arranged by Philip Sparke. By this time Conductor, Craig Williams had a heart rate at a gurkha rate and his forays into the audience knew no bounds........ Parafrase for Euphonium and Brass Band by Torstein Aaagard-Nilson, featuring another one of our Taiwanese friends making a big impression with the Band, Yu Han Yang on Euphonium gave a flawless (and seemingly effortless) performance of this fantastic arrangement - the audience were truely stunned and rightly so! Santa Claustrophobia, arranged by Sandy Smith gave the Band a chance to let their hair down and the audience to almost 'Rock-Around-the-Clock'! Great Stuff, and the end of a cracking first half!

The Interval was fuelled with Orange Juice, Tea and assorted biscuits/scones, whilst some players were nursing aching lips!

But that was as nothing to what was coming!

The Second Half started with a rousing version of 'Hark the Herald Angels Sing', before the St Stephen's Choir delivered an assortment of 'Bethlehem', 'The Christmas Prayer' and, Mary's Boy Child'.

The Band accompanied the audience in 'Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer', before the Choir returned with a trio of delights, 'The First Nowell/Pachebel's Canon', 'Sweet Chiming Christmas Bells' and 'Christmas is Coming'.

The Band's final set began with Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson, an energetic Snow Waltz arranged by Goff Richards, and a magnificent performance of Eric Ball's masterpiece - Kingdom Triumphant - there was not a dry eye in the place, such was the majesty of this performance. The Christmas Song arranged by Philip Sparke and the Hallelujah Chorus by Handel, ended a breathless final session by the Band.

But such playing!

The audience went wild - they made it perfectly clear what a fantastic night they had enjoyed, and so it was perfectly fitting for the Band to end the Concert with White Christmas by Irving Berlin arranged by Philip Sparke.... although the chance of any small white stuff falling from the sky this year, once again was remote!

Thanks to all at St.Stephens for making us feel so welcome and the audience who made the evening so special.

Special thanks to our Friends who helped us out on the night, to Rosey and Julie for being such a special part of the final quarter of 2018 and to maestro Craig Williams who certainly gives the audience their seconds worth!


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