Hertford Choral Society's concert in All Saints' Church on November 12th was described as an "eclectic" journey and, my goodness, it was - choral and instrumental music from the 16th and 20th centuries,stopping on the way in 1736 and 1885.

The choir, with the brass and percussion of The Chameleon Orchestra, began with five Renaissance songs and dances that suited the acoustic well.  After a nervous start, the singers produced a splendid climax to the final verse of Arbeau's Pavane.  This tune, made familiar in Peter Warlock's Capriol Suite, provided a tenuous link to the next work by Warlock's friend Gerald Finzi.  Finzi's Eclogue for piano and strings is pastoral and melancholic with swells of emotion that were beautifully interpreted by pianist Elizabeth Shepherd.  She showed mastery of an entirely different style in Constant Lambert's Rio Grande with jazz, Brazilian dances and abundant flamboyance.  Here, the choir made a confident entrance and, skilfully controlled by Derek Harrison, continued to negotiate their way effectively through unexpected turns of mood and style, integrating well with orchestra and piano.  Some of Sacheverell Sitwell's words were not clear, but his description of dancing and singing was beautifully delivered.  Kate Symonds-Joy, a young mezzo soprano gaining national acclaim, provided the soaring solo.

Bruckner's Ecce Sacerdos combines trombones and organ with taxing choral parts, particularly upper voices, but they coped well and the plainsong Gloria was lovely.  Peter Jaekel was the soloist in Handel's G minor Organ Concerto with a sensitively ornamented performance, but the string accompaniment lacked vitality and period style.  John Rutter's Gloria ended the programme, demonstrating more complicated and harmonically interesting writing than many of his very popular carols.  The choir needed some athleticism and were mostly successful, although sometimes overpowered by the brass.  This was a most enterprising concert and a tribute to the innovation of Derek Harrison and his enthusiastic choir.

Jennifer Hopkins

Hertford Choral Society teamed up with the National Saxophone Choir of Great Britain to deliver an enterprising, entertaining and hugely enjoyable concert in All Saints Church on Saturday 25th.

This latest exploration in a succession of imaginative pairings showed its great strengths in the opening number. Handel's Zadok the Priest was lively, crisp and bounced along with a tremendous sense of life and joy. The following transcription of Bach's Fugue in G Minor was a foot-tapping/head-nodding dance.

The Saxophone Choir brought some of their "party pieces" including exhilarating renditions of Dick Barton - Special Agent and Mozart's Magic Flute Overture, an impressively choreographed treatment of Bohemian Rhapsody and a luscious treatment of Ketelbey's Sanctuary of the Heart.

We were also reminded of a local connection in Simon's Mangrove Groove a piece commissioned for Simon Balle School by the Choir's composer in residence Roger May.

HCS treated us to a very well prepared and clear rendition of two movements of Elgar's Bavarian Highlands and a well controlled rendition of Morten Lauridsen's Dirait-on. For me the upper voices rather outshone the gentlemen in terms of expressive lyricism and delivered pin point accuracy of tuning. The same could be said of the spirited rendition of Chilcott's Singing by Numbers though the gents redeemed themselves in the well executed slides during Cruet MacNightshade (words by Spike Milligan!).

The one piece that did not come off for me was Elgar's Spirit of the Lord. The rich sound of the Saxophone Choir meant the ethereal opening and closing were far too solid and earth-bound with the Saxophone Choir never really managing to achieve a true pianissimo and drowning the singers on occasion.

Nevertheless this was a very worthwhile exploration of the scope of an unusual collaboration and well worth hearing - as evidenced by the vivacity of Bernstein's West Side Story and the final Over the Rainbow with a (conscious?) tribute to the late and great George Shearing in the final harmonisation.

The concert deserved and received a standing ovation.

More please!

Martin G Penny

Reviews of Past Concerts