MiQP’s latest event also marked the launch of Kington’s Christmas Tree Festival, a wonderful way to mark the Christmas season of celebration. All around the church were placed trees which had been dressed by different groups, including the porch, and they provided a very welcoming sight for visitors and performers alike. Pretty enough as they were, they gained in beauty and sparkle by the switching on of the Christmas tree lights during the service, so that, by the end, the church looked quite magical, reflecting the thought and enthusiasm with which the community had entered into the Christmas spirit.

This impression was heightened through the experience of the evening’s music and readings, bringing together, as it did, young people, their staff and parents from Herefordshire and also Powys. Clyro CiW Primary attended, along with other schools taking part in the Cathedral School’s Outreach programme and with choirs from Hereford Cathedral School itself. Joining with others to sing – or to listen to – music, is heartwarming and uplifting, the opposite of what church mice have witnessed recently in the human world. What a relief to spend an evening of pure happiness, with the opportunity to nibble the crumbs from mince pies which were provided  along with the more usual wine. And on this evening, everybody had the chance to sing as there were Christmas carols which we could all attempt, between listening to some beautiful and rousing sounds. The girls of Cantabile opened the evening by processing from the western end of the church carrying candles which flickered in the darkness as they sang Hodie Christus Natus Est like medieval nuns in some long-forgotten convent. There followed Once in Royal David’s City, in the tradition of King’s College Cambridge’s Christmas Eve service, complete with boy treble soloist in the first verse. The congregation continued to be entertained by a mixture of Christmas music and readings by the performers, some familiar to regular followers of MiQP and some not, some older and some absolutely tiny. The traditional sounds of Away in a Manger and other carols contrasted with more contemporary ones, including Because it’s Christmas, (impressively sung without music

by Clyro CiW Primary School) with its rhythms reminiscent of Caribbean calypso and a jazzy interpretation of Ding Dong Merrily on High by Cantabile.

The highlight of the evening may have been Walking in the Air by the combined choirs with excellent solo voices, or Hereford Cathedral School Chamber Choir’s stunning rendition of Lux Aurumque by Eric Whitacre, the modern American composer –

“Light, Warm and heavy as pure gold, and angels sing softly to the new-born babe.” (Edward Esch b. 1970 translated into Latin by Charles Anthony Silvestri).

But who could ever forget the sight and sound of the combined choirs, some members of which appeared barely older than the new-born babe, who sang the Hallelujah Chorus both lustily and joyfully?  It was a performance many a small choral society would have been delighted to have delivered, and it’s one the participants are likely to remember for the rest of their lives. It is easy to forget that choirs made up from young people who are still at school necessarily change their members every year as they reach the end of that particular level of education and move on. How difficult it must be for their directors to maintain high standards year after year, enthusing newcomers and continuing to inspire older members. All the music staff involved deserve our warmest admiration for what they achieve. They and their choirs can feel very proud of themselves that they are able to give such pleasure.

The refreshments team at Kington also deserve our grateful thanks for providing such a warm and friendly welcome on a cold night. What a wonderful start to the Christmas season – plenty of joy and goodwill and not a B word to be heard…..

Herefordshire Historic Churches Trust