I have sung in 51 HCS summer concerts so it seemed odd to be sitting, quite far back, in the nave of St Albans Abbey, as part of a large audience.
Peter Bodden’s introduction in the concert programme set the scene for a promising evening. Two of the three works in the first half (Finzi’s Eclogue and Sumsion’s choral piece) are relatively unknown but the concert began with a confident rendition of Mendelssohn’s familiar Hebrides overture ‘Fingal’s Cave’ by the Chameleon Arts Orchestra. At times the playing could perhaps have been a touch lighter, but it was all very musical.
Our wonderful accompanist Sue Graham Smith, who is sadly leaving us at the end of the season, was then the piano soloist, playing with the strings in Finzi’s beautiful Eclogue to her usual high standard. The choir then got up and sang the short piece They that go down to the sea in ships by Sumsion, sung sensitively and with the lyrics clearly audible.
After the interval came the rousing opening of Vaughan Williams’s A Sea Symphony. Throughout the work, the rapport of the choir with the Chameleon Arts Orchestra was admirable. Derek Harrison conducted a rousing version of ‘Behold the sea itself’. The ‘itself’, like some of the other lower pitched parts, was not as audible as the ringing tone of the higher parts. The sopranos sang particularly clearly; there were some tuneful alto lines; and the men sang positively throughout. The baritone solos by Robert Gildon were well sung, but the Abbey’s acoustics made some of them fainter at times. The audience could follow the Walt Whitman poem from the programme, but the choir’s enunciation was excellent. The soprano solos by Sarah Fox were finely sang, particularly at the start. The semi-chorus could perhaps have been a little louder in the huge abbey but contributed an effective and poignant element to the performance.
The second movement, ‘On the beach at night alone’ was sung beautifully, in suitably quiet tones. In the third very animated movement, ‘The waves’, the rhythms were well brought out. The final movement, ‘The explorers’ was delivered confidently and sounded splendid.
The last pages were sung with gusto and the quiet ending was most effective. Throughout the work, the conductor Derek Harrison was in complete control of the various musical forces, making for a moving and uplifting symphony. It inspired me – and other members of the audience – to resolve to acquaint myself better with other works by Vaughan Williams, thereby underlining the value of the performance.
Social media comments on HCS St Albans concert
Wonderful venue @StAlbansAbbey for @HertfordChoral concert A Sea Symphony and the sound was superb. Really enjoyed it!
Well done @HertfordChoral - still swaying from the Sea Symphony! Thanks for a really enjoyable evening.
What a fantastic evening. First time since 2006 that the Hertford Choral Society has staged a concert at the Cathedral. Honoured by the presence of the Lord Lieutenant, the Chairman of County and the Mayor of St Albans. A superb concert.
What a fabulous experience!
A wonderful concert in the magnificent setting of @StAlbansAbbey. Thank to all concerned.#StAlbans
A wonderful setting for a very enjoyable concert by @HertfordChoral
What a wonderful concert, the choir were great, the orchestra amazing and the venue magnificent!
Photographs of HCS St Albans concert
You can find a wider selection of photographs taken at our concert by Mark Green here