‘Christmas Oratorio? In January?’ Conductor Julian Wright put this popular query swiftly to bed.

A piece so often caught up in Advent programming frenzies, JS Bach's revised Oratorio was written for the six Christmas Feast Days, beginning on Christmas Day and ending on Epiphany.

What better way then, to prepare for Sunday’s Twelfth Night than with a rousing rendition of four sections of the work from the Durham Singers, their resident period instrument ensemble and soloists from the Hexham-based Samling Institute for Young Artists.

The performance, at Durham Cathedral, soon found its stride, given zip and vigour by a fine trumpet section. Through the opening solo exchanges, baritone Patrick Owston added the necessary injections of sprightly energy needed in Grosser Herr, o starker König.

There were moments of real ingenuity; the decision to include a separate semi-chorus of sopranos from the Samling Institute made a delightfully angelic foil to Owston’s recitative.

The inclusion of two pieces from outside the Oratorio – O Jesulein süss and Liebster Immanuel from BMV 123 – were elegantly placed by the Durham Singers, a choir singing with no hint of a post-Christmas lull.

Tenor Timothy Langston is gaining a reputation as a singer with a wide purview, as a full-time member of the Royal Opera House Chorus, alongside lieder, oratorio and directing committments.

On Saturday, Langston was appearing as a member of the burgeoning Samling Artist programme.

He makes for a rich, full Evangelist, exploiting the dramatic tensions through Ich will nur dir zu Ehren leben. Highlights of the performance include the charming Echo aria, shared between sopranos Zoë Jackson and Martha Cook, and the jubilant final ensemble throes, depicting the Magi’s arrival and thus the logical conclusion to this Christmas story.

A packed cathedral enjoyed a fine rendition of this most eternally rewarding of works.

Hugh Morris