With the Nation honouring the memory of those who fell in two World Wars and in many other subsequent conflicts, it was a very appropriate moment for Hertford Choral Society to present its concert In Remembrance.

Derek Harrison, Musical Director, compiled a program of music composed during the years before, during and after The Great War. The program stretched the musical skills of the Choral Society, as it required big singing as well as “singing small”, plus precision and great control. In this the Society did not disappoint its audience and for my part, their performance of John Tavener's Song for Athene was achingly good.

Two well-known and greatly-admired soloists, Fiona Hammacott singing soprano and Leandros Taliotis, baritone, gave us a collection of individual songs taken from the Great War period and also led the singing of Stanford’s Canticles in G Major, the Magnificat and the Nunc Dimittis, supported by the Choral Society and expertly accompanied by Peter Jaekel whose skill at the keyboards of both organ and piano was a highlight of the evening.

The second part of the evening’s concert began with an excerpt from Laurence Binyon’s famous poem For the Fallen which was then followed by Ralph Vaughan Williams’ cantata Dona Nobis Pacem in which both the soloists, the accompanist and the Choral Society performed with passion in this emotional cry for Peace.

The audience very much appreciated both the content of the program and the opportunity, at such a poignant moment, to be present at and part of this Concert, which was well-rehearsed, well directed and conducted and which was delivered with dignity and respect.

Thank you to all concerned.

Christopher Maunder Taylor

The evening began in fine style with the Trio ‘jamming’ on Charlie Parker’s Billie’s Bounce.  Clean, clear and cool playing made it clear this was going to be some evening!

HCS joined the Trio in three of Chilcott’s Jazz Folk Songs. The House of the Rising Sun, a lazy cool with a well blended sound from the Gentlemen; Tell my Ma, a more lively style, bouncing along; Cherry Tree with nicely caught delicate Japanese derived textures and shapes.

Sarah Dacey sang Britten’s arrangement of The Last Rose of Summer with a beautiful legato over the turbulent accompaniment.

The Trio then performed an impressive treatment of When I fall in love.

A second group of three Jazz Folk Songs (arr. Chilcott) followed. Hush little baby, neat navigation of some captivating if unexpected modulations; There is my loved one, skilled sustained quiet singing; Waltzing Matilda, tidy singing of ingenious cross-rhythms.

The second half was devoted to Will Todd’s Mass in BlueKyrie had a dark almost smoky opening with clean tight vocal lines. The central jaunty Christe contrasted well.

Throughout the Gloria the crisp rhythms of trio swept the choir along.

Credo opened with crisp and clear words. Et incarnatus provided a moment of gentle repose. Et resurrexit had pulsing rhythm and a fast moving bass leading into an ecstatic Et expecto and Amen.
Sanctus was the least successful movement.  Its gentle style slipped into a level of timidity with some moments of slack rhythm and tuning.

By contrast the ensuing Benedictus was sung with great conviction and fire. The Double Bass and Chorus basses kicked it off with a real crisp foot-tapping ostinato.

Agnus was a sultry blues with Sarah Dacey delivering a well supported sound.  The contrasting Dona Nobis Pacem was pure magic.  The work and concert concluded in brilliant fashion with a ‘scat’ Credo.

What can Mr Harrison come up with next year? – I’ll certainly be there to find out!

Martin G Penny

J S Bach’s monumental late composition, completed just before his death in 1750, received a fitting performance at this concert. The number of singers to be used in this work has been the subject of much discussion, with selections ranging from one voice per part to full massed choirs. For me, there is no question that the piece works best in live performance with large forces, and HCS, with over one hundred singers, demonstrated that.

The four soloists were of high quality, Grace Davidson’s soprano has  a timbre of rare beauty, and the same can be said for alto Tim Travers-Brown, whose contributions held the rapt attention of the audience. Tribute must also be paid to the horn player who accompanied Colin Campbell’s soulfully sung bass aria and played the subsequent horn solo with complete command. Nick Madden sang his tenor parts with fine voice and depth of feeling.

The great choruses were handled by the choir with splendid unison and fine intonation, obviously well-rehearsed, but not lacking in spontaneity, and the overall impact was simply overwhelming. The problems of balance sometimes apparent at this venue were on this occasion solved, with maestro Harrison judging the orchestral volumes perfectly, to render the singers clearly audible. His choice of generally moderate tempi and avoidance of extremes brought out all beauty implicit in this masterpiece and steered it to an impressive conclusion.

Gordon Williams

Hertford Choral Society's concert, 'In the spirit of Christmas' was a musical celebration enhanced by top flight guest performers.

These were the spellbinding saxophanist Catherine Evison and the award-winning young students of The Bax Choir from Heath Mount School.

Leading the Choral Society, Derek Harrison's imaginative programming gives his singers a fresh and interesting challenge each year - as bright and modern as the stylish decorations in the Church that evening. The Choir sang works ranging from the atmospheric 'My Lord has Come' by contemporary composer Will Todd, to gentle lullabies, including the lovely torch-lit 'Sing Lullaby and What Child is this' to the slavic splendour of the beautifully shaped 'Christmas Canticle'. It takes a very versatile and experienced choir to encompass all these styles so successfully.

On a different scale, Catherine Evison on saxophone, with Christopher Benham at the piano, employed the resonant acoustics of the Church to the full.  Whether the mood was mellow and poignant, elegantly jazzy or fast and frolicksome, their performance was magical.  With a scarlet HCS carnation in her hair and adding highlights to the larger choral works, Catherine stole our hearts.

The 40 strong Bax Choir impressed with their confident and tuneful performance, keenly responsve to the conducting of Musical Director Andrew O'Brien. Their three outstanding soloists, Sam Townend, David Shaw and Vinnie Avvoltoio, deserve particular mention. Matthew Woodward accompanied the choir  in their singing of works by Britten, Harold Darke and Michael Head, clearly demonstrating why they were 2012 Junior School Choir of the Year.

Good humoured compere Roger Mullis guided us through the evening and urged us to 'raise the roof' in the audience carols - we tried our very best!

Rose Pullum

From Credo to Cannibals Hertford Choral Society demonstrated their confidence in tackling contrasting themes and styles. All Saints Church provided the perfect setting for the Little Organ Mass by Franz Haydn with the outstanding Willis organ, expertly played by Peter Jaekel in the Benedictus, solo from which the Mass takes its popular name. Moods ranged from the powerfully rhythmic Kyrie to the tranquil sections of the Credo (well done Altos, lovely sound), contrasted with yearning passion of the Agnus Dei and culminating with an exciting Gloria. In what may be a creative trademark of Music Director Derek Harrison, the movements were reordered and expanded by the inclusion of a duet from Haydn’s Oratorio The Seasons. Here the two soloists Philip Salmon (Tenor) and Dominique Thiébaud (Soprano) demonstrated their musical prowess to the full expanding on the theme of selfless love that ran throughout the programme.

Following this Benjamin Britten’s St Nicholas Cantata was performed in a manner that would have pleased the composer. Professional and amateur musicians joined to give a convincing rendition of music that requires fine tuning with Britten’s unique bi-tonal harmonic language. The Amadeus Chamber Orchestra, expanded by percussion and piano duet were more suited to the imaginative and highly efficient brilliance of Britten’s scoring. They provided an exciting accompaniment to the frequently angular melodic style so bravely taken on by the choir. Philip Salmon once again came to the fore with a powerful portrayal of the Saint, now joined by the crystal clear sound of Will O’Brien as the young St Nicholas and Michael Ochman-Bates, Hugh Reid and Stephen Curley as the Pickled Boys in this extraordinary murderous tale.

This was a spirited and convincing performance, much in keeping with the composer’s original intentions and very much reflective of a choir that seeks to expand its repertoire. Their outreach programme creates opportunities for keen singers of all abilities to enjoy singing beyond the everyday pop song and perform alongside professionals, expertly supported by their conductor. With future performances including Bach’s B Minor Mass, Voices and Jazz and an open rehearsal / performance day ‘’Raise Your Voice’’ now planned keen singers will find much to enjoy. 

Steve Wright
Head of Music, Richard Hale School

Page 3 of 5

Latest News

Herford artists sketch the choir at rehearsal

Artists from Hertford Art Society sketching the choir in rehearsal as we prepare for our June 29th concert.

If you are interested in coming along in singing with HCS, please contact our Membership Secretary, Trish Goldsmith, on 01992 589730 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.   Don’t hesitate to ask any question at all.

We look forward to welcoming you to HCS! Click here for more news from Hertford Choral Society.

HCS Facebook Group

Join our Facebook Group HERE

Watch HCS Sing

Reviews of Past Concerts