By Peter Fletcher

What an autumnal delight was the Hereford Choral Society’s “Choral Classics” concert on Saturday night. From the west end of Hereford Cathedral, director Geraint Bowen served us a feast of musical comfort food without a hint of cliché or hackney. This offering was as fresh and bright as if we were meeting these old friends for the first time. The accompaniment of the Hereford Sinfonia orchestra, rather than the more familiar (for most of these) organ, could have been rather overpowering but the balance was finely held, the occasionally overenthusiastic brass notwithstanding. Of course, the words were challenged by the cathedral’s acoustic in the contrapuntal sections but perfectly clear in the homophonic and unison parts. The dynamic range was especially effective and affecting.

In the centenary year, we had plenty of Parry, of which we do not tire: “Blessed Pair of Sirens”, “I was Glad” and “Jerusalem” as well as the excellent “Magnificat”. This was only the second performance in Hereford of this marvellous piece; the first being its premiere, conducted by the composer himself for the Three Choirs Festival in 1897. It was a splendid showcase for the soprano soloist Rebecca Hardwick, who beautifully portrayed Mary’s humility and awe. Rebecca displayed her versatility with her clear and prayerful “Panis Angelicus”. “The March of the Women”, lustily sung by the female chorus, celebrated the 90th and 100th anniversaries of the laws recognising the universal right to vote.

The Hereford Sinfonia, with Peter Dyke on organ, moved us in the plangent “Adagio in G Minor”; an emotive piece whether by Albioni or Giazotto and in the luscious “Pavane” by Gabriel Fauré. In the latter, the choir blended like instruments into the orchestral colour.

In Handel’s triumphal “Zadok the Priest”, the teasing introduction was fulsomely answered by the choir in fine voice; and from memory! The grandeur was maintained in the final two ‘audience participation’ pieces, “Jerusalem” and “Pomp and Circumstance, March No. 1”. In this sing-off, the Parry was in the more audience-friendly key but “Land of Hope and Glory” proved to be more irresistible to the active participants. It is a most English melody, although the only flag being waved was a Welsh one!

Hearing the Hereford Choral Society with full orchestral accompaniment provided an exciting and heart-warming evening and leaves us in eager anticipation of “Messiah” on December 8.