What an enjoyable end to the second, very successful, season of Music in Quiet Places. Choirs from the Cathedral School entertained a packed church at Brilley (despite a competing local event and the anticipated arrival of the monthly fish and chip van at 8.00 p.m.) with people arriving late or experiencing difficulty in finding seats. Once again the evening was a wonderful mix of sacred and secular – how many programmes combine pieces by the Everly Brothers and Coldplay with Lotti and Purcell, titles from Sh-Boom to Lux Aurumque and settings of psalms (including one harmonised by Michael D’Avanzo, a choir member) with dance pieces. There were folk songs – Dance to your Daddy from the North East, Bunch of Thyme from Ireland, and Danny Boy – no, not another Irish song actually. Although the tune is the Irish Londonderry Air, the words were written by Frederic Weatherly, who was educated at Hereford Cathedral School so rather a nice link to the county there.
There were protest songs – All My Trials, Lord (older audience members remembered the version by Joan Baez, while those even older might remember the one by Harry Belafonte) and a spiritual (Steal Away).There was Eli Jenkins’ Prayer from Under Milkwood (set by Dylan Thomas and Daniel Jones, who some in the audience recalled as an interesting character), chamber music and two readings. What more could one ask for in a programme? There really was something for everyone, and it was all performed to a very high standard.
The relatively new male voice choir (The Chaps) gave us something different with their entertaining Sh-Boom and Dream, and the Tango and Charleston, one of the pieces played by the string quartet, lacked only Flavia and Vincent, formerly of Strictly Come Dancing plus a few palms to make us believe that we were at a tea dance.
Cantabile lived up to expectations as 2017 Barnardos Choir of the Year, beautifully blended voices, singing as usual, without scores, which is such a difficult thing to do, especially when there are several pieces to sing, not just one. The Senior Chamber Choir impressed too, with their confidence in holding a line when spread around the church for a couple of the pieces, a few terrifying inches away from audience members. In this blogger’s favourite of the 2016/17 season, Eric Whitacre’s Lux Aurumque, the dissonances resonated through the foiled roof trusses and resolved themselves so beautifully; the full harmonies, high soprano line and deep bass with some long, wonderfully sustained notes are exceptionally tranquil and calming. It was magical. The maturity and self-assured nature of the Chamber Choir’s singing would make older and more experienced choirs proud.
The interval gave time for a glass of wine and the chance to spend a few minutes around the simple and ancient C12th font, looking at some interesting C18th memorials or in the churchyard set in lovely border countryside. The original building is C13th or C14th, although it has been much restored. The words of Coldplay sung by Cantabile seemed very apposite – “When you lose something you cannot replace” – what do you do? It makes HHCT more determined to work towards not losing the historic churches which we cannot replace.
The Church Mouse