IF you were able to take a break for a couple of hours from the pressures of preparing for Christmas, this very special evening with Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra was a lovely reminder of why we do it.

The BSO found itself accompanying three choirs: Bournemouth Symphony Chorus, Bournemouth Symphony Youth Chorus and us, the audience, who were often on our feet joining in with some of the best loved festive music.

All the expected highlights were there, with everyone joining in for O Come All Ye Faithful, The First Nowell and Hark the Herald Angels Sing. But one of the strengths of the evening was that it wasn’t just about carols.

Beginning with Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro Overture, the programme also gave us Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracaker Suite and Rutter’s Shepherds Pipe Carol.

The adult chorus impressed us with selectons including The Cowboy Carol and Shepherds Pipe Carol, while the youngsters were in the spotlight for Debussy’s Noel des Enfants Qui N’ont Plus de Maisons and a beautiful rendition of Somewhere In My Memory from John Williams’ music for Home Alone.

The orchestra, under conductor Victor Aviat, handled all the music adeptly, whether they were giving voice to reverence in Willcocks’ Gabriel’s Message or bringing us the fun of Anderson’s Sleigh Ride (a piece that’s as enjoyable to watch performed as to listen to).

The BSO’s chief executive, Dougie Scarfe, presented the evening, linking the material capably and reading Clement Moore’s poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, in Philip Lane’s setting for narrator and orchestra.

The audience may have shared the singing duties with two excellent choirs, but when it came to the encores – a lively Twelve Days of Christmas and an especially rousing Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah – it was as well that we left it to the experts.