St. George’s Woolhope is pretty and old – with Norman elements (although there was originally an earlier church on the site). It was full of proud parents, grandparents, neighbours and friends for the second of this season’s Music in Quiet places series. Everyone commented on the warmth of the atmosphere despite the cold evening. The red tops worn by Mordiford CE Primary School were cheerful and contributed to the ambience created by a packed church.
Performers from Mordiford and St. Mary’s Primary School Fownhope joined Hereford Cathedral School Senior Chamber Choir in an entertaining programme. There was, as ever, a good mix of music, instrumental and choral, the instruments covering a huge range. At the more unusual end of the spectrum was the Ukulele Ensemble from Fownhope, playing ukuleles decorated with the Union flag – String Along Rag was particularly jolly. At the serious end was the organ, recently restored and painted in its 1882 glory, played by Michael D’Avanzo. He chose J.S.Bach’s Toccata in C BWV564, much of which we might have thought was recorded as his hands were by his side; it was his feet doing the playing on the pedals.
We heard several very young performers on the piano, flute and saxophone and admired the way in which they coped under the pressure of playing in front of so many. One little girl was so small as to be almost completely hidden behind the music stand. These young children also sang from memory, sometimes incorporating clapping, sometimes in parts, not always in English and sometimes unaccompanied. Their enthusiasm was clear, a great testament to their teaching staff. “Walking in the Air” sung tunefully and with a smile by Honor was very well-received.
The audience heard pieces ranging from hymns – “All through the night” was sung in Welsh – and other sacred music (the spiritual Steal Away included some rather jazzy harmonies) to very secular items ( Teddy Bears Picnic and Dancing Tree Frogs come to mind). There were classical pieces such as Lead me Lord by S.S.Wesley, (one-time cathedral organist at Hereford) and Gypsy Rondo by Haydn. The latter was played by a piano trio who managed extremely well considering that the violin was played with a spare cello bow (the violin bow had broken), and the cellist’s bow was also broken. Modern items included a modern arrangement of Greensleeves and Tuxedo Junction sung by The Accidentals – a male voice a capella group. In addition, there was the chance to hear Allegri’s Miserere, not often heard hereabouts outside the cathedral. This piece, which demands that the singers maintain their pitch without an accompaniment, maintain the correct rhythm of the chant and a very high soprano, was conducted by Michael D’Avanzo, the youthful organist.
The evening was a very good opportunity for young children to perform with older students and in front of a large audience of adults and peers. It was to their credit that they did this with confidence and evident enjoyment.
The Church Mouse