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A Christmas Carol – a cantata based on the Dickens novella, created by Ashley Thompson and playwright/actor Deborah McAndrew

This retelling through song, without narration, of Charles Dickens’ classic tale, draws on a wide variety of styles - some old, some new - whilst also incorporating well-loved carols that would have been known in Victorian England. It is at the same time contemporary and rich in tradition.

Orchestral premier featuring the Phoenix Singers, the Grove Singers and the Salford Symphony Orchestra

Sunday 7th December 2014 4:30pm 

Stockport Town Hall, Edward St, Stockport SK1 3XE


Salford Symphony Musical Director Barrie McKinnon

The Phoenix Singers Musical Director AshleyThompson

The Grove Singers Musical Director and Leader of the Salford Symphony Orchestra Jon Henderson



Hansel and Gretal Overture Engelbert Humperdinck 

Recorder Concerto in C Major (RV 443) Antonio Vivaldi (Soloist Lucy Carr)

Silent Night Franz Xaver Gruber / Joseph Mohr 

O Come all Ye Fairthful  Arr. Barrie McKinnon

Sleigh Ride Leroy Anderson 

Star Wars - John Williams


A Christmas Carol AshleyThompson/Deborah McAndrew


The Salford Symphony Orchestra
First Violins
Jon Henderson
Christine Clarkson
Denise Doyle
Eileen Stevens
Jennifer Brierley
Jim Beeson

Caroline Rabbitt
Second Violins
Joanne Mellody
Simon Caplan
Bronwen Bevin
Joe Brothy
Rowan Paterson
Nicholas Paxton
Ros Wood
Emily Peak
Emma Cowley-Burgess
Richard Larson
John Owen



John Eaton
Beth Blackburn
Jonathan Brooks
Dave Collins
Katy Gettings
Lee Carr
Malcolm McAllister
Jenny Hughes
Josh Brierly


Trevor Marshall
Nick Fox
Rosemary Williams


Adrian Watts
Denis Carvill
Sarah Birchall
Walter Coupe


Bass Trombone
Richard Birchenough
Ann Speyer
Angela D'Arcy

Albert Pollard
Ruth Evans
Melanie Head
Irene Wynne-George
Chris Kay
Peter Thickbroom
Tim Paton
David Wedlake
Peter CollierHarpsichord
Graig Harper

Katharine Brown




The Phoenix Singers

The Phoenix Singers adopted its new name in 1985, when the choir was re-born from the ashes of the former Leek High School Choir. Since then the choir has developed a varied repertoire, performing major choral works, small-scale pieces and contemporary music. It draws its membership from all parts of the Staffordshire Moorlands and beyond. A registered charity (no.1085474), it is a genuine community choir in that it welcomes anyone who enjoys singing. 

The Grove Singers

The Grove Singers are a mixed voiced community choir based in Crewe. The choir started as a 10 week 'come and sing' course but are still going more than 20 years later! They sing a mixed a cappella repertoire including music from 16th century, part songs, folk songs, modern arrangements and a variety of world music, with an aim to appeal to all tastes. Whenever possible the concerts are given to raise money for local charities and good causes and also act as a platform for young musicians to perform as soloists. Groves have been the guest choir in numerous collaborations including performances of Carmina Burana, Faure Requiem and a Gala with Fodens Band. For a number of years they have been invited to sing with Salford Symphony Orchestra at their Christmas concerts and this year will be the biggest venture yet as part of the chorus for "A Christmas Carol". They are looking forward to the next 20 years!

Ashley Thompson
Ashley studied composition at London University and organ with Andrew Lumsden (Westminster Abbey), and then education at Durham. Having started his teaching career at Bishop Heber High School, Malpas, he is now working as a freelance music educator in and around Cheshire. As Special Projects Manager for Music for Life, he is currently working in partnership with Excellence in Crewe leading the highly acclaimed Whole Class Instrumental Teaching project, introducing the joys of instrumental music making to every primary school in Crewe! Ashley is also the director of the Music for Life Junior Orchestra. Ashley has devised and directed all of the Summer Rock and Pop Summer Schools for Cheshire County Council. He has also worked alongside the Dance Advisor providing music for nursery to sixth form projects.

Ashley has composed for numerous stage productions. Most recently he was Musical Director for Amadeus at the New Vic Theatre where he has previously been Chorus Master for Sweeney Todd and Musical Supervisor on The Snow Queen and Once A Catholic. Recent commissions have included a rock reworking of Vivaldi’s Gloria and Come, O True Light, a drum and bass anthem written for Worcester Cathedral.

As an accompanist he has toured Japan and he is currently Musical Director of The Phoenix Singers and The British Methodist Youth Choir, with whom he has recently released A New Dawn – an album of brand new choral works. His music is published by Boosey & Hawkes and Stainer & Bell Ltd.


Deborah McAndrew

It seems incredible, given the enormous popularity of Charles Dickens' festive story, that there isn't a short through-sung cantata of A Christmas Carol already - but there isn't. It's such a brilliant idea that when Ashley suggested it to me I didn't even have to think about it. The extra challenge Ashley set us both was to incorporate existing carols, so that the new words and tunes would slot together with old, familiar ones like pieces of a puzzle. It's a privilege to work with Dickens' masterpiece, and the process has been fantastically enjoyable. I hope you like it. 

Deborah has made numerous television appearances, but she is best remembered as Coronation Street regular, Angie Freeman. Deborah has worked extensively in theatre over her 20-year acting career. Theatre credits include everything from Shakespeare to Pantomime. Deborah has been appearing regularly for BBC Radio Drama since 1993, when she recorded her first Afternoon Drama, A Soldier Moves. Deborah’s educational work includes guest lecturing at the Universities of Manchester, Bolton and Staffordshire. She also has a broad experience of working with young people, coaching for LAMDA exams, and in schools for Creative Partnerships.


Barrie McKinnon

Barrie was born in Salford in 1950 and attended Salford Grammar School where he studied violin.  He joined Salford Youth Orchestra in 1967 as principal percussionist – later serving as Orchestra Chairman, tutor and conductor and in 1969 joined Salford Symphony Orchestra.  Serving as principal percussionist under Jack Fryer and Bill Spry, Barrie took over the baton on 1976 – becoming the first “Salfordian” to conduct the Orchestra.  At the same time he also played with other local amateur ensembles including, Gorton Phil, Bolton Chamber Orchestra, Windsor Band, Barton Hall Works Band and Bolton Borough Band – playing percussion, trumpet, cornet and flugel-horn.  Whilst at college Barrie developed a great love of G & S performing in a number and directing even more. Moving to work in Bolton in 1984 Barrie guest conducted the Bolton Youth Orchestra and joined Harmonie ’84 (then reigning BASBWE National Champions) as principal percussionist.

Having relinquished the post of Musical Director of SSO to pursue more performing, Barrie continued to play with the Orchestra until it ceased to function in 1987. 

A chance conversation with Christine Clarkson saw her and Barrie reform SSO along with a “hard core” of about ten players.  Since then Barrie has brought the orchestra to the standard it was at when performing at its best. Sell out performances at the Lowry Centre and challenging programmes are an indication of the standard the orchestra has reached under his direction.


Jon Henderson

Born in 1968. Educated at Wolverhampton Grammar School. First public performance 1979 Wolverhampton Civic Hall. As a member of Wolverhampton Youth Orchestra toured France, Belgium, Holland, Germany & Yugoslavia. Performed at the Barbican Centre London with the Merchant Tailors Orchestra. Gained degree in Creative Arts from Crewe & Alsager College and then became a peripatetic string teacher working full-time in Cheshire schools and freelance Violin / Viola player.

Founder member of the Liadon Ensemble (formed 1990), a contemporary music group whose music has been widely used by dance and theatre companies - released 2 albums. Recently recorded a CD of music for electric violin and another CD of music for electric violin and guitar with guitarist Gary Hickey. Also a member of "Sine Nomine" International Touring Choir, last year sang in the prestigious Vaison La Romaine Choral festival - France. Recently became co-conductor of South Cheshire Youth Choir.