Review: The Northern Chamber Orchestra delivers Christmas cheer to Tatton Park

Last Friday 10 December saw the first of two Christmas concerts that day, given by the Northern Chamber Orchestra in Knutsford, And I was excited.

But it won’t be the first time I’ve misjudged an entrance and it surely won’t be the last.

It actually wasn’t even the first time I misjudged the entrance to Tatton Park but I shall never learn.

I’ll keep it brief but my best laid plan of getting the train to Knutsford, prancing down the high street with a skip in my step and a face full of cheer, and then swanning into the Christmas concert with a complimentary mulled wine in my hand and a mince pie in my belly, with half an hour’s grace to pick out the crumbs from my jumper and the red wine smile from my lips, as I calmly awaited a wonderful afternoon of music, went somewhat…


Never go on foot to Tennants Hall in Tatton Park from the Knutsford entrance unless you realise that said hall is further away than you think or you’ve read the directions correctly or you have plenty of time to reach your destination. Special thanks to the gentleman on the entrance gate who adopted a kind and sympathetic expression as he revealed my immediate fate.

Top tip – gates closer to the Hall are readily available. ditto driving lessons.

So the reality was arriving two minutes before the orchestra took their seats, mulled wine swapped for a refreshing glass of orange to counteract the wheezing from rushing 2.5 miles steadily uphill in 20 minutes, and an embarrassing display climbing over my fellow audience members as I tried to locate my mid-row seat in a massive panic.

But it was all worth it.

The Northern Chamber Orchestra, who are the oldest professional chamber orchestra in the North West, and joined by the choir of St Nicholas Catholic High School, Northwich, were on top form and quickly banished my own performance to the consigns of my collection of memories of dread and tension, ready to revisit at 3am during the next bout of insomnia.

In a room bedecked with Christmas trees (and wall-mounted stags which were actually quite beguiling), the elegant Kate Millward warmly introduced us to what promised to be (and duly did deliver) an afternoon of classic and contemporary Christmas music, including Sleigh Ride and the Overture from Hansel and Gretel, and film music such as the themes from Harry Potter and E.T., and audience carols for all to sing.

And yes, with apologies to those seated around me (for the second time that afternoon), I sang my little heart out. I don’t extend my apologies to my plus 1 as the vows taken lock him firmly into listening to me at any given point, without complaint or get-out clause.

More beautiful a sound was the St Nicholas Catholic High School choir, conducted by the School’s Director of Music, Helen McKenna, who together filled the room with their beautiful voices and melodies and complimented the orchestra wonderfully, forming a marvellous, musical partnership.

The concert took me back to school and Brownies and all those wonderful carols that did indeed herald the start of the ‘most magical time of the year’. a feeling which can often be diluted the older you get, especially given recent times. But the orchestra and choir left me feeling tingly, warm and indeed emotional, as I was taken back to Christmases past. I actually cried during John Williams’s theme from E.T. (after having successfully managed to avoid a repeat watch of the film since the age of 6 because I’m a big,baby – his little face though…).

There’s nothing in the world that provokes such emotion and memories more than music. Especially when performed as beautifully.

And so back to Christmas present, Kate Millward regaled us with readings both witty and wise and the concert drew to a close with a hand-clapping, Santa hat-wearing rendition of We Wish you a Merry Christmas as the choir returned to the stage.

Getting back out of the park after dark was a whole different story but let’s leave that one for another time. And make clear that any lunacy and confusion surrounding entering and leaving the park is solely on the shoulders of this writer. And I’d do it all again in Christmas future.

Happy holidays!

For details or more upcoming concerts by the wonderful Northern Chamber Orchestra visit

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