For those who find themselves becoming increasingly jaded by the same old carols ringing out, Fraser Wilson, who runs the choral group Albion, has a solution.
The choir he established in Sheffield two years ago is popularising a new style of carol singing.
Wilson takes carols that are already well loved, but creates new versions to be sung by Albion’s 12 unaccompanied voices.
Wilson, the composer, explains: “I call the process reimagining, because I aim to preserve the essence of the carol, even though I am creating new harmonies and a new texture around it.” He usually begins by playing or singing through the carol twenty or thirty times until he knows it intimately. He then experiments with harmonies and ideas at the piano “until the solution comes into my head, and the music is often fully formed before I begin to write it down.”
Then the choir gets to work: an unusual group, they sing without a conductor and do not use sheet music, so every singer has to memorise it.
Albion are performing two concerts, on Friday at Holy Trinity Church, Millhouses, and on Saturday in St John’s Parish Church (the Cathedral in the Peak) at Tideswell.
The singers have high hopes for new versions of classics O Holy Night and The Coventry Carol that they have been preparing to perform. “We hope that these new carols will put Sheffield on the map for contributing something new,” says Albion’s director.
Wilson arrangements to be heard include Hills Of The North, What Child Is This?, The Truth From Above, The Skies Will Thrill With Rapture to the tune of Londonderry Air, The Angel Gabriel, The Infant King, and the Sussex carols. He provides his own settings of texts by Sally DeFord, Thomas Traherne and from the Bible Holy Trinity Church,Tickets are £8/ £5 and available via www.albionchoir.org.uk