In one of the most country’s most beautiful spiritual spaces, a superlative group of musicians and singers are raising the roof on the most magical night of the year.

The 14th-century chapel at New College is the stunning venue for one of the musical events of the year – Oxford Bach Soloists’ Christmas Eve performance of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. And the place is packed.

The evening consists of the second part of a performance, begun last Christmas Eve, of the full six parts of Johan Sebastian’s festive tour de force. So while 2016 saw us marvelling at parts I-III, with their own particular symmetry, this time we have the concluding parts IV-VI (Fall With Thanks, fall with praise; Let honour to you, God be sung; and the rousing Lord, when our arrogant enemies snort with rage). To start with we are treated to the widely-loved Cantata 147 (Heart and mouth and deed and life) – featuring the chorale ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.

Twelve months may seem like a long interval, though, as ensemble manager Edward Smith points out, it doesn’t feel like it. It has, however, been a trying year, with events all too easily fuelling despair and a temptation to cut ourselves off. What this glorious music, with its poetic retelling of the Christmas story does, is reconnect us with humanity and, if you are of a spiritual persuasion, your god.

Bach’s writing, secular and spiritual, has a singular ability to raise the heart in its mathematical balance, and combination of elaborate complexity and simplicity. That interplay of voice and instrument absorbs the listener – particularly in the hands of such masters as Oxford Bach Soloists under the deft direction of Oxford conductor Tom Hammond-Davies.

Deserving of particular praise are the soloists: stirring and lavishly bearded tenor Daniel Norman (a former New choral scholar); baritone Ben Davies; extraordinarily soaring countertenor William Purefoy (a former Magdalen College lad); and Canadian-born Cecilia Osmond – joined by her son Xander Quinney, 10, as her echo – a sweet and effective touch.

Yet, despite the name, this is not just about solo performances but a celebration of what happens when it all comes together in a glorious ensemble – on period instruments and in pure voice.

A stunning performance by the crème de la crème of musicians and singers. Roll on next Christmas!