December 2019: Musical Advent Calendar

December 25th and Merry Christmas!

Bonus Christmas lullaby with Lionheart Harmony and lots of photos of my friends’ and family’s babies gathered in 2011 – I haven’t looked at this one for ages – it’s very cute!

Hush My Dear – it’s a lullaby and it’s Christmassy!

December 24th

That First Christmas Night

Time for my annual sharing of this video! It’s my Worksop carol! Words written in Worksop. Music by a Worksop lass. Photos of gorgeous bits of Worksop! Merry Christmas Worksop!

December 23rd

Omnes de Saba

It’s another choral fanfare, this time with Medieval tendencies. I wrote this song in one day for a competition. It did not win the competition, but it has since been performed a few times, and I’m rather proud of it!  

The thing I’m proudest of this year is my song Lullaby Of Silences. I composed in the spring and early summer and it was a difficult process initially. It has been performed four times in the autumn by The Bridge Singers,  and I am so proud of it that I have written the whole process up in a blog and have just spent this morning all the various snippets from these performances in an update to that blog. If you read or listen to only one thing from this Musical Advent Calendar, I would hope that this would be it.

December 22nd

Laetentur Caeli.

It’s the fourth of the Five Christmas Fanfares. This recording is by Rock Festival Choir from 2006’s Advent Concert and has not previously featured in one of these videos. I made this video before and after yesterday’s outing using photos from mine and Mum’s trip to Kew Gardens in September where we loved everything of course, but were particularly delighted by the Dale Chilhuly glass art dotted around the place in his exhibition Reflections On Nature.

New video made yesterday – Dale Chihuly’s glass, Kew Gardens and Laetentur Caeli performed by Rock Festival Choir.

December 21st
His Golden Locks.
Nothing else to say for now – we’re off on an outing and have a list of tasks to complete before we can come home. This is The Bridge Singers singing a bit of Dowland with some of the words slightly altered to make it festive! We sang it in our first ever concert. No-one laughed, except us, but we didn’t care – we love it!

Dowland adapted for Christmas

December 20th

Silent Night

This arrangement cropped up in conversation last night….in an unfavourable light, alas, but there you go, you can’t win ‘em all. I was at a rehearsal for Rock Festival Choir – ten of us are singing at Lucker Hall this evening – carols, lighter Christmas songs and some non-Christmassy jazzy numbers for the guests and anyone else who happens by – come along if you’d like to! We’re not singing Silent Night, by the way!

Silent Night In The Barbershop style – not everyone’s cup of tea, and the recording sounds a bit like we’re singing through cotton wool, too! Nice pictures, though!

19th December


It’s the second of my Christmas animal poems written for some Year 1 and 2 children back in the Sunderland days. It’s read here again by my lovely friend Sid and the music is the 2nd movement of my brass quintet from the Manchester days.

Lovely Sid with the camels and a bit of brass quintet.

December 18th
Cantate Domino
It’s a lively and cheery choral Christmas fanfare with hints of interlocking Balinese rhythmic patterns and a mixture of antiphonal and monophonic textures. That’s what! Good morning from Dr. Camm. Sometimes cleverness overcomes me, but I’ll be back to normal shortly.

The world premiere of Cantate Domino by Concentus of Brisbane.

The recording above is of the world premiere at Brisbane Cathedral complete with lively baby and audience chittering. However, it’s also on a CD by the splendid Kantos – a wonderful Christmas CD that you perhaps might like to purchase, and here is their recording of it:

My song from the album “The Silver Stars At Play” a selection of Christmas songs performed by Kantos

17th December

Tiny, Flickering Flame

Today, I am volunteering up at the school in the village. My task? To teach the entire population this song for their Carol Service and Christingle on Thursday while the vicar Rev. James Harvey explains the symbols and helps them make their own Christingles. We’ll each be on a rotation around the classes. I’m not sure of our finishing time, but I know I’m starting at 9.30am. Getting up for 9.30am is not a problem for me as you know, but staying alert after the late nights of Monday choir maybe will be, especially as I anticipate a large output of energy. Should be lots of fun. An appropriate photo of James appeared on the church’s Facebook page overnight – you can see I think that it will be a fun day!

December 16th
Hark Hark What News!
This is another song that The Bridge Singers performed in their first ever concert five Christmasses ago…in fact the first ever song we sang in our first ever concert, with our lovely Bob George on the opening few lines as we all casually joined him for the remainder. This recording is not from that occasion but you get the idea I’m sure! Mmm… nice sunrises too!

Five of Lionheart Harmony at Cragside, jingle bells at the ready for “White Christmas”

I should also mention that yesterday Lionheart Harmony did, as predicted, sing In The Bleak Midwinter at Cragside – three times indeed as part of our three sets. The third set was the best terms of people stopping to listen. We were positioned in front of a large Christmas Tree in somewhat of a cul-de-sac and perhaps people were trapped. No – they flowed through… or at least were sucked in and squirted back out. Anyway. It was good fun and our wonderful friends Shirley and Julie came to listen to that last set too and took photos all the way through.

December 15th

In Th Bleak Midwinter

Well yesterday’s performance with The Bridge Singers was at a wedding at Otterburn Castle – we sang Cohen’s Hallelujah and three Christmas Carols at the request of the bride but unbeknownst to the groom – his favourite song as one of her gifts to hm. We’ve had to be very secretive about it in case word got out. It went well, and our having to be quiet before and during the ceremony was not as arduous as some of us had imagined. Our formation on the staircase was slightly troublesome as it was a tight squeeze, but all was fine well before the bride and groom appeared, and we sang rather well, I thought. Today we’re off to Cragside with Lionheart Harmony – singing three sets of half an hour or so –  Christmas music on the red corridor – do come along if you’re in the area. This “In The Bleak Midwinter” is part of our set today. Hopefully the weather won’t be as it was in these pictures – at least while we’re travelling about!

December 14th

Chantry Chapel Carol

I’m off to sing this morning with The Bridge Singers which always makes for a happy day. We have to be silent before we sing for about 30 minutes as there are other performers next door and no door in between. Tricky for us, gasbags and fusspots as we are, but I’m sure we can manage just this once. I wrote this song for this choir and we performed it in our first ever concert five Christmasses ago, and on a couple of occasions since. The Chantry Chapel of which it speaks is in Wakefield, by the way, and for a while it was a library and for a different while it was a cheese and cheesecake shop, but before that and now it is a chapel and is on one of the main bridges over the Calder (now pedestrians only and somewhat dwarfed by another, wider one) and for centuries has welcomed visitors to the city. All these things are mentioned in the song…also it’s dedicated to St. Mary.

Last night I went up to Gallery 45 to see and hear the very new Coquet Concert Band, which has been set up by another musician in the village, Andy Taylor and friends Derek and Sue Belshaw. They are absolutely brilliant and I’m very excited that in February The Bridge Singers and The Coquet Concert Band will do a joint concert in Swarland. We are to do three items together and several of our own. Andy has asked me to compose something for the occasion, which I am now onto. You may or may not know, but before I started all this composing in schools and conducting choirs and working in galleries business, I used to just write music for brass, woodwind and percussion instruments and was a blooming good clarinet and flute player. At the RNCM all my best friends were wind and percussion players and this was where I thought my future lay, so after all these years of discovering that I could do other things, my composing will come full circle! I hardly ever play clarinet or flute these days, I must admit, and I’d need to build up the playing muscles in my face again if I were to resume, but my fingers still seems to be able to move fast enough to play my recorders in Fingers Adrift, and in our Autumn concerts with The Bridge Singers our regular drummer was absent, so I did all the djembe-ing for Tarakihi and our Missa Luba movements -turns out I can play the tricky rhythms as well as compose them! Right – off I go to sort out my tinsel for today’s choir uniform adornments!

December 13th
Dies Sanctificatus.
I have awoken to election news which seems to have had the effect of making me rather despondent and pessimistic, so my mission today must therefore be to cheer myself up, and I may as well start with an exceedingly cheery song, performed by an exceedingly accomplished choir accompanied by a series of pictures that make me properly smile.

December 12th
Lupset Chase
Today is election day here in the UK. Quite an important one with all the huge decisions that are to be made by whoever wins. As a cheery musician and arts lover and supporter, as the wife of a foreign national, as the daughter of grafters and aspirers, with a heritage of coal miners/postal workers/policemen/teachers, as the sister of someone who lives and works in the EU, as the friend of immigrants, as an educator, as a fan of the BBC, the NHS, public transport, paying taxes to benefit all of society, you can perhaps guess where my vote will not go. However, as someone who is generally optimistic, I shall venture into today with hope that those I feel are responsible for all the inequalities and rifts, for all the uncaring attitudes and intolerance, those who have lied to us to benefit themselves, those who do not understand what real life is like for most people, those who take advantage of those of us who like simple explanations, those who foster people’s prejudices and exploit people’s weaknesses, will not win. I will go and vote in a constituency that I know does not generally agree with me, but my stance does not seem unreasonable, so maybe there are more like me than I think.
Anyway, I do not have an election song to share, but I’m feeling a little belligerent this morning, and so here is one of my most belligerent songs. It’s about wolves hunting, chasing, howling, snuggling in the freezing wintry moors of West Yorkshire.

Wintry wolf song

December 11th

Dancing Stream

I composed this one when I worked in Sunderland as well. It was part of our Winter Wear Project – each class stopping off at a different point on the river to tell its story in song, movement and art. This was the opening song and merely tells the tale of the stream in the upper reaches of the river as it frolics through the frozen landscape. Originally it was sung by the school choir, then I made an arrangement for SATB choir, then was asked for a version for a girls’ school choir and their string orchestra. “Like a painting in music” was one bit of feedback I recall on the occasion of its premiere!

Dancing Stream – inspired by a frosty landscape! Photos by Michael Camm, my excellent brother.

December 10th


This is a poem I wrote for some Year 1 and 2 students at Grangetown Primary School in Sunderland several years ago. There’s a camel one too, which may feature in a few days’ time! The music accompanying it is Hilda’s Whimsey for oboe and piano – a piece I composed in the exhausting heat of the first summer we lived in Brisbane, when I had no job and was finding it all a bit difficult! The poem is read by my lovely friend Sid who died last year. I’m so very glad that I persuaded Sid to record these two poems for me as it’s very cheering indeed to hear his voice again and remember what a very wonderful fellow he was. We sang together in Lionheart Harmony, and tonight the rest of us are gathering for a practice at our house in readiness for a gig on Sunday at Cragside – we’re on three times during the day if you fancy hearing us!

Lovely Sid Porteous reading my poem in proud Northumbrian!

December 9th
A little bit of Monday up-and-at-‘em feistiness and jollity. Personally, Monday is usually about getting ready for choir, and tonight is no exception – we’re starting our Burns Night prep and still have a carol service and a wedding to go before Christmas, so no letting up. The printer will be getting a good run today. I have to wait for Jamie to wake up before I set it going though, as it makes the upstairs floors shake when it’s in full flow and he’s gently slumbering away still (naturally enough at 5am).

A French Carol and some Cornish windows

December 8th

The Lamb

This song has been performed very many times, and I do have several recordings of it that I could choose to share, but this is The Bridge Singers performing it in Brinkburn Priory two years ago – a powerful performance by the whole choir and featuring Jamie and Peter on the solos. I put it together in this video accompanying the delightful watercolours of our soprano Dawn. I have to choose this version today because at 3am on the day after our wonderful Christmas concert and less than two days before we are to start rehearsing music for our Burns concert in January, this amazing group of singers and friends is keeping me awake on so many happy accounts!

By the way, if you like Dawn’s watercolours, you should visit this site!

December 7th

Gabriel Fram Heven King

Last night Jamie and I went to The Sage Gateshead to see The Sixteen perform lots of Medieval and Medieval-inspired Christmas music. They were of course brilliant. They did sing a version of this carol. I made this arrangement for The Bridge Singers a couple of years ago for our glass-inspired concert – St. Gabriel appears in a couple of the windows at St. Michael’s Church. I made this video to help the choir learn a uniform pronunciation! We’re back there again later today for this year’s Christmas Recital.

Gabriel Fram Heven King arrangement

December 6th

Alleluia! Into The Light!

Alleluia! Into The Light.

Today I have a list of tasks mostly related to tomorrow’s concert with The Bridge Singers. This song has got nothing to do with that, except that it’s a song in which we think about tomorrow, I guess!

December 5th

Sweet Bells.

The Bridge Singers will be performing this on Saturday in their concert (3pm, St. Michael’s Church, Felton) but today I’m off to Wooler for end of term merriment with Veronica’s Cheviot Singers and thought I’d take the bells and let them loose on this too! The pictures are from our holiday in Budapest a few years ago.

Sweet Bells arrangement

I’ve also been making some musical posters for our upcoming concert on Saturday with The Bridge Singers. I’ll try and post them here too, but I fear they may be a bit big!

Animated and Musical Poster – and yes – the only one that’s small enough to post on this website, alas!

December 4th

Magical Glass

I’m up earlier than usual today to take Jamie to the trains. He’s off to London for three days for meetings and the like. I don’t know why I selected this particular song in particular today – it just popped into my head: A song of Sunderland and images of a lovely holiday we had in Cornwall.

December 3rd

Ding Dong Merrily On High

I’ve chosen this one today because it’s one of the songs we’re singing at The Bridge Singers’ Christmas Recital on Saturday. We don’t have a wind band to play along with us, alas, but nonetheless it’ll be a jolly rendition with organ instead! We had our last rehearsal yesterday evening and it’s sounding not bad at all. Ill attach our poster, so that if you happen to be in the vicinity at 3pm, you can pop in and hear us. I guess it’s that time of year when there are concerts and rehearsals popping up thick and fast and most of my time seems to be taken up with preparing for one or other. Yesterday, I ended up sorting out Saturday’s programme, so that the choir could sign the back of it at the rehearsal, as is our custom.

December 2nd

Laud Blaw The Frosty Breezes

I choose this today because I’ve awoken to the sight of frosty sparkling on the ground outside and the most remarkable sunrise glow. Last night after our concert we drove to Katie’s house for the post choir chatting and snacks there was also a most remarkable sunset too – the upside of these frost-fostering cloudless skies, I guess. As you will see over the next three to four weeks, life is chocka with Christmas performances from now on, but next Monday, following The Bridge Singers’ Christmas concert this coming Saturday, we must crack on with our Burns Night repertoire. Gary sang this song at our last Burns Night event in 2018, as a solo with guitar, but I’m thinking that this time we might do it as a choir item. One of today’s tasks is to start sorting out Burns music. I’ll let you know later how I get on!

December 1st

Hodie Christus Natus Est

Rock Festival Choir will be singing this later today in their annual Advent recital in Alnwick, but if you can’t make it to that, here they are singing it a few years ago!

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