THE warm evening sunshine playing through the stained glass windows formed the perfect backdrop for Henley Choral Society’s summer concert, an intriguing selection of part-songs, madrigals and folk songs interlaced with words by Shakespeare.
The programme opened with part-songs by British composers and by the second song the choir was settling into its stride, bringing a strong dynamic contrast to Elgar’s My Love Dwelt in a Northern Land. They were joined by soprano Bethany Partridge for Stanford’s The Blue Bird, her voice floating over the choir’s atmospheric depiction of a still blue lake.
Gerald Finzi’s Let Us Garlands Bring — regarded as among the finest interpretations of Shakespearean lyrics — were presented to great effect by the four excellent young soloists: mezzo-soprano Abigail Gostick, tenor Hiroshi Amako, baritone Jonathan Pacey as well as Bethany Partridge. David Smith’s sensitive accompaniment conjured from the piano all the colours of the orchestra.
A short excursion into German music with three Brahms folk-songs had the choir on its toes with their German pronunciation, but their precise diction helped the story-telling.
Madrigals are usually sung in intimate spaces by small groups, but the zest with which the choir tackled Farmer’s Fair Phyllis showed they can sound well with larger forces.
In counterpoint to the music the programme included two entertaining readings from Shakespeare: Sonnet 18 and a passage from The Winter’s Tale. Rounding off the concert were two settings of Shakespeare by George Shearing, the choir mirroring the jazzy piano in style.
Conductor Benjamin Goodson produced some fine singing from the choir, with a good balanced sound. This was a most enjoyable concert, the summery mood it created lingering in the words from Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music: “Soft stillness and the night become the touches of sweet harmony.”
• Henley Choral Society will sing Bach’s St John Passion on March 14 March, 2015 and welcomes new tenors and basses for rehearsals on Mondays from 7.30pm to 9.30pm at d:two, Market Place, Henley from September 8. Contact membership secretary Wendy Hawkins on (01491) 576929 or email email@example.com
Shakespeare and Summer Songs
Christ Church Centre
Saturday, June 14