Hertford Choral Society's Christmas concert It's Christmas was held on 16th December 2017. HCS was joined by soloist Dagmara Jones on the French horn, and the Abel Smith School Choir, all ably accompanied by Christopher Muhley on the organ and piano. The Musical Director and Conductor was Derek Harrison and the concert was compered by Roger Mullis.
Last weekend, I was lucky enough to attend the Hertford Choral Society’s (HCS) It’s Christmas concert. The event had been a festive highlight in my calendar for a while so when the night finally arrived, I was keen to see what it was all about…
As I walked into All Saint’s Church in Hertford, I was greeted with a warm welcome, a glass of wine and a mince pie – we were already off to a good start!
The church was decorated with twinkling lights, garlands and three beautifully decorated Christmas trees. I spent some time chatting with members of the society, who were all extremely friendly and obviously very excited about the evening they had been working so hard to prepare.
The concert began with a rousing Fanfare for Christmas, sung by the full choir, who looked equally festive in smart dress with red bow-ties for the men and corsages for the ladies. Then followed a selection of traditional Christmas carols, as well as lesser-known seasonal pieces. This was interspersed with opportunities for the audience to sing along, French horn solos from Dagmara Jones and a performance from Abel Smith School Choir.
The HCS choir sang beautifully and moved smoothly between gentler pieces like Away in a Manger and more energetic numbers like The Twelve Days of Christmas. The latter of these, I’ve heard performed many times over the years but the choice to use Austin / Humphris’ creative arrangement breathed new life into the song. Featuring different sections of the choir layered over one another, intricate timing and even the odd animal sound (six geese a-laying!), the piece was impressively complex whilst still remaining light-hearted and fun.
Likewise, the Abel Smith School Choir received heartfelt (and well deserved!) applause for their rendition of Silent Night. The children, aged between five and eleven years, not only sang beautifully and from memory but also in German! Their performance was full of energy and confidence and brought a smile to everyone’s faces.
Another youngster who made a big impression was Esme Sabin, a year six pupil from Duncombe School, who delivered a stunning solo at the start of Once in Royal David’s City. The church was silent as Esme delivered the first verse with clarity, confidence and precision. Each note was perfectly pitched and unhurried, providing an enchanting introduction to the classic carol.
Christopher Muhley provided skilful organ and piano accompaniment throughout the evening, whilst compère Roger Mullis kept things moving at an upbeat pace, with amusing and informative commentary around the evening’s repertoire.
All-in-all, It’s Christmas was beautifully presented, skilfully delivered and full of energy. There was variety, fun, a few surprises and plenty of festive merriment. It’s easy to see why so many return each year, to hear HCS perform.