The fourth concert of this lunchtime series took us on a musical journey, via hand bells and piano arrangements, through the stages of Advent.

Playing to a receptive audience – which included three perfectly behaved infant triplets – the festively dressed hand bell ringers, conducted by Lesley Salter, performed such favourites as ‘Away in a Manger’ and ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’. The clear and simple notes evoked the emotion of this special Advent season, the well known carols reminding us of the magical journey to the light of the manger.

Traditional Christmas songs were interwoven and ‘The Little Drummer Boy’ echoed the sense of simplicity, with no gift to offer except his drum music. This was followed by ‘On a Starry Night’ and our journey around the stable continued as we listened to the joy at the birth of ‘the King of all the world’.

While the hand bell ringers took a break, local pianist Joe Laredo played two piano arrangements by Laura Shur, ‘Silent Night ‘ and ‘ Once in Royal David’s City’. These were two thoughtful and imaginative pieces, wonderfully played by Joe.

A merry rendition of ‘Deck the Halls’ followed Joe’s delightful interlude and all that was missing was a wassail cup circulating through the audience to complete the Christmas picture! Then we traced the steps of the Magi with ‘As With Gladness’ and ‘We Three Kings’. The concluding piece was, of course, ‘Jingle Bells’ and the audience joined in with gusto.

As always, a very special atmosphere was created, with time to listen to lovely music, consider the Advent journey and reflect on the Christmas message. Luckily, there are more concerts in 2015 to look forward to and we’re pleased that £21.40 was raised for the organ fund by this concert.

by Andrea Hearne, with photos by Richard Hearne

SMSG church handbells in festive mode

SMSG church handbells in festive mode

Joe Larido plays carols

Joe Laredo plays carols

Selecting bells

Selecting bells

The bells

The bells