Hertford Choral Society teamed up with Sounds Aloud Percussion Ensemble to deliver an exhilarating, entertaining and hugely enjoyable concert in All Saints Church on Saturday 22nd June. The decorations and subtle up-lighting transformed a rather dull June evening into something warm and welcoming.
This latest exploration in an annual series of imaginative pairings showed its great strengths in the opening numbers. Pastime in good company was crisp and bounced along with tight foot-tapping rhythms. The following transcription of Pachelbel’s was gently engaging, with words (not always entirely clear) by Sheila Dorling.
The excerpt from Bach’s St John Passion showed the down side of such an ensemble. The beautiful and mellifluous tones of the marimba smoothed out the harsh tensions of the original string writing – losing the sense of the drama to follow. Kumpo, using three African drums, certainly got the adrenaline flowing with a set of strong rhythmic patterns tossed from player to player.
Following Geoffrey Shaw’s Shakespeare Songs, which were well sung if a bit under-characterised, came Graham Install’s Chasm. This used percussion as melody and voices as percussion. Its three-part structure featured vigorous outer movements and a lyrical central Gloria – sunshine after the stormy night of the Kyrie - all blended together in the final Sanctus. The choir obviously relished the challenge and the performance was delivered with great panache.
The percussionists ‘summonsed’ us to the second half with a fine treatment of the British Grenadiers. Derek Harrison’s delicate re-arrangement of Britten’s Sally Gardens was stylishly understated and was followed by an equally imaginative treatment of She moved through the fair by Graham Install, both getting first performances tonight.
HCS then sang some very fetching arrangements of some lollipops before Daniella Ganeva stunned us in leading a virtuosic (and physically demanding) performance of Marimba Spiritual. The relentless energy and drive was a tour-de-force for the players and a‘white-knuckle’ ride for the listener.
Three movements from Orff’s Carmina Burana brought the concert to a rousing conclusion and triggered a well deserved ovation.
What can Mr Harrison come up with next year? – I’ll certainly be there to find out!
Martin G Penny