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Stan Kenton's 'A Merry Christmas'

Conductor: Richard Ward
Regent Hall
London
Friday 14th December

This was a carol concert with a difference given by a brass group directed admirably by Richard Ward – consisting largely of arrangements made by Ralph Carmichael for a recording by the famous Stan Kenton Band. 

Kenton was experimenting with a section of mellophones replacing the reed players at the time, but here the parts were inventively covered by an excellent quartet of French horn players who added warmth to 4 trumpets and trombones, tuba, keyboards, bass and two percussionists.

Lush harmonies

The extended opening melody featuring a number of well-known Christmas tunes, including 'Joy to the World', 'Away in a Manger', 'We Wish you a Merry Christmas' and 'Silent Night' contained lush harmonies with some particularly fine high register playing by the horns.

'O Tannenbaum' was the first of the Kenton arrangements, with sumptuous chording throughout, and was followed by 'The Holly and the Ivy', which opened with the players whistling the tune before it was taken up by unison horns, the key shifting incrementally by semitones.

'We Three Kings' and 'Good King Wenceslas' featured carillon effects backing the trombone melody. After a lively version of 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' the group played Evan Jolly's setting of 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas', arranged originally for Katherine Jenkins. James Copus was the smooth flugel soloist.

The extended opening melody featuring a number of well-known Christmas tunes, including 'Joy to the World''Away in a Manger''We Wish you a Merry Christmas' and 'Silent Night' contained lush harmonies with some particularly fine high register playing by the horns.

Impressive

'Once in Royal David's City' set the horns against quaver figures on percussion and bass, before another non-Kenton item, as Richard Ward joined the trombone section in Roger Harvey's 'It Came Upon the Midnight Clear'.

'God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen' and 'O Come All Ye Faithful' came next - the latter opening with quiet trombones and piano scales before some impressive high trumpet playing and an altitude finish from the horns.

After the rather American 'Angels We Have Heard on High', an enjoyable programme finished with a spectacular setting of 'O Holy Night' - rounding off an excellent effort put together with very little chance for rehearsal.

Peter Bale 

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