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.