“Another brilliant concert” said an audience goer. And we are inclined to agree.

Neo-classical in style, St. Francis Xavier, in Hereford, was built without windows in 1839 for fear of their being broken by local anti-Catholic elements. Thankfully, the danger of that has long become a distant memory, and the beautiful, peaceful building was the venue for the latest MiQP performance, The Tanners Concert, named after our sponsors. Built on the site of an earlier chapel, St. Francis stands in the heart of Hereford, a few yards from the Cathedral School from whence the youthful instrumentalists emerged after a full school day ready to share their considerable talents and vitality. The church was nearly at capacity to listen to an early Christmas concert performed by various ensembles including the school’s Symphony Orchestra and different string, woodwind and brass groups.

The festal theme was present throughout, but not in the form of carols, more by way of traditional tunes or more modern items with an association with Christmas. Members of the different groups wore jolly Father Christmas hats and I saw at least one  bassoon and a double bass festooned with tinsel, adding to the celebratory atmosphere. The music was varied; there were some traditional Irish melodies such as Carolan’s Air, from the late C17th or early C18th, composed by Turlough O’ Carolan, and Drowsy Maggie,which you may have heard in the 1997 film Titanic. Much more recent were items by Lennon and McCartney, Elton John and Baba Yetu, by Christopher Tin, a Swahili setting of the Lord’s Prayer.  Then there were also more well-known tunes such as White Christmas, ( 2022 was the 80th anniversary of its first performance by Bing Crosby) and Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson, who started writing it  during a heat wave in 1946! The percussion section performed very well throughout the evening adding plenty of sound and rhythm including lots of bells.

It is difficult to choose highlights from the event, but Church Mouse did find some. The Liberty Bell (Monty Python theme tune!) by the Brass Group and Plink, Plank, Plunk by the Intermediate String Quartet were two.The latter was played pizzicato with  other  sounds created in innovative ways (and there were a couple of miaows – happily for Mouse, not real cats!)  and some woofs. The climax of the evening, however, was undoubtedly  the Jazz Band. This was the only band with a vocalist, a young soprano taking on the challenge provided by Eartha Kitt in Santa Baby, and then It Had Better Be Tonight from the 1963 film The Pink Panther. And what a success she made of it, very ably accompanied by the rest of the band, with a particularly strong brass section. There was some lovely mute playing and a real swing to both pieces. The audience was delighted and responded with hearty applause and not a few cheers.

Heartfelt thanks to Father Brendan for making the church available, to John Cook at the church, to performers, teachers and parents, and, of course, to our Sponsors, Tanners Wine, who, we are delighted to learn, will continue their sponsorship for another year.

Church Mouse

Herefordshire Historic Churches Trust