Royal Ballet Sinfonia
City of Prague Symphony Orchestra
Barry Wordsworth, Gavin Sutherland, Julian Bigg conductor
HERITAGE RECORDS HTGCD 139
A Child’s Christmas is an apposite title for an enchanting collection of orchestral music for Christmas, curated by Phillip Lane who is one of eight English composers represented. Along with Ian Nicholls, he is the composer/arranger of The Adventures of Captain Pugwash. It opens with the Theme Tune complete with roistering accordion. This piece celebrates famous sea shanties. These used to be known and sung by school children but, suggests Lane regretfully, not any more.
Many composers represented here work regularly on film or television. One of those, Adam Saunders (b.1968), is celebrated in Hollywood. Three of the items include appealing arrangements of carols or Christmas songs.
Gordon Thornett’s A Child’s Christmas includes Away in a Manger and The Huron Carol. These are skilfully linked together in a piece that opens and closes with O come little children originally a German carol, now popular in England and especially the USA.
Christmas Party by Thomas Hewitt Jones (b. 1984) is for orchestra with a splendid violin soloist, his brother, Simon Hewitt Jones. It features a delightful arrangement of the French Carol Quelle est cette odeur agréable. Once again, a plethora of tunes are adroitly linked together. At one point there is a surprise before the finale. The pop of a cork is followed by the sound of champaign being poured. Cheers!
Sing a Song of Sixpence has no carols. Instead, a series of English popular songs are treated similarly, beginning with Hot Cross Buns and The Grand Old Duke of York. A real highlight was a delightfully dreamy setting of The Salley Gardens.
Roy Moore (b. 1948) gives us Santa’s Sleigh Ride complete with jingling bells. To start the CD, we are taken to the panto by Victor Hely-Hutchinson (1901 – 47) with his Overture to a Pantomime, which is more than a little reminiscent of Gilbert and Sullivan.
Sullivan and Balfe are also there in arrangements of music chosen by John Lanchbery. This includes excerpts from the film ballet, Tales of Beatrix Potter. For those who might prefer Hollywood films at Christmas, Adam Saunders (b. 1968) offers luscious orchestral writing in A Magical Kingdom and Journey to Lapland.
Thomas Hewitt Jones gives us a second piece entitled The Age of Optimism (2023). He surely avoids watching today’s news. With Christmas coming fast, perhaps we can listen to his music, and find hope there?
Review by Alan Cooper