14 December 2020
In what has been a difficult and socially-distanced year, the Girls’ Division of Bolton School was determined to provide some live Christmas cheer through their traditional Ceremony of Carols. Using the quadrant formed by the school buildings, the School created a unique ‘drive-in’ experience for guests.
From 6.45pm until 7.30pm, a steady stream of 75 cars processed into the Girls’ Division Quad, which became a perfect square concert hall for vehicles. Amplified speakers faced out onto the audience of cars, large multi-coloured uplights stunningly illuminated the sandstone buildings which offered a wonderful backdrop to the ceremony. Spectators remained in their vehicles, many with the driver’s window down to assist the acoustics.
In a skilfully choreographed evening, socially distanced choirs sang in the School’s Great Hall, their voices amplified through the speaker system, the Y9 Choir sang through open windows looking out onto the audience below and an outdoor stage under a gazebo was utilised for solo performers and speakers.
Holding with tradition, the evening opened with the Chamber Choir’s atmospheric rendering of ‘Hodie’ as they processed down B corridor in darkness except for their candle-lit lanterns and into the Great Hall where the Y8 and Y10 choirs led the singing of the congregational hymn, ‘Once in Royal David’s City’. The opening verse was sung adeptly by soloist Roxanne Asumu. Much of the car-bound audience lent their voices to verses 2-5, as did the Y9 choir through and out of windows on the corridor above.
Headmistress Sue Hincks welcomed the audience to this unique event and gave the Bidding Prayer before Amy Costello delivered a stunning solo performance of ‘Away in a Manger’.
In the first of many thoughtful, imaginative and well-delivered readings by pupils, Nyah Pomian read ‘Carollers at Mole End’ from Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows. This was followed by a haunting and spiritual rendering of ‘Baby in an Ox’s Stall’ by the Chamber Choir. Back down on the outdoor stage Loni Mayou delivered Maya Angelou’s ‘A Christmas Poem’ from ‘Amazing Peace’ before Y9 made their way into the Great Hall ‘recording studio’ to deliver an upbeat and life-affirming ‘The Holly and the Ivy’.
Manahil Masood read ‘Scrooge is a Changed Man’ from Dickens’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ and then it was the voices of the Y8 and Y10 choirs that again led in the singing of the stirring ‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing’. Thea Littlefair read an excerpt from ‘The Grinch’ before the Chamber Choir performed a traditional Appalachian song, ‘I Wonder as I Wander’. The Accidentals’ Choir were on fine form in their deliverance of ‘Jesus Christ the Apple Tree’ and then Ella-Rose Parken and Aimen Iqbal read Maggie Farrell’s ‘On the First Day of Christmas’. The Y9 Choir was then back in the Hall to sing ‘Colours of Christmas’ before the spotlight returned to the outdoor stage for Deputy Head Lynne Kyle to deliver the reading ‘The Christmas Life’ and there was a stunning solo performance of ‘Silent Night’ by Taya Panter.
Y9 took their place back on the corridor and overlooking the audience and joined Y8 and Y10 girls in singing ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ which saw excellent contributions from soloists Ani Sastry and Hannah Berisford. The Headmistress read St John Chapter I, and the Chamber Choir sang ‘Three Kings from Persian Lands Afar’.
Miss Hincks thanked everyone for coming as well as the musicians and staff who had worked hard to create such a stunning evening. In response, there was much tooting of car horns and flashing of headlamps! The final congregational hymn of the evening was a very festive ‘Adeste Finales’ and the event closed in traditional fashion with the Chamber Choir processing out of the Hall to Hodie. The evening raised funds for Urban Outreach’s Christmas Hamper Campaign.