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.