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Bishop’s Stortford Choral Society bring serenity and joy in times of uncertainty




Bishop's Stortford Choral Society mustered all its energy to bring the power and the reflective quiet of Rachmaninov’s “Vespers”, the All-Night Vigil, to All Saints’ Church at Hockerill on Saturday.

The church was serene, bedecked with flickering red candle lights. Friends, family and others came and enjoyed the music, before the impending ban on large gatherings.

Singing this unfamiliar orthodox music, in Slavonic Russian, often in eight parts and without accompaniment was a huge challenge for the choir, but its hard work paid off. The sound of the big chords rang out and left its presence reverberating around the capitals of the columns.

Bishop's Stortford Choral Society in concert at All Saints' Church on Saturday (31695173)
Bishop's Stortford Choral Society in concert at All Saints' Church on Saturday (31695173)

In other movements, the znamenny-style chanting rose and fell, before fading away to enable contemplation. The choir’s basses did a brilliant job, singing lower than many will have tried before and underpinning the music, while the other voice parts also had their chance to lead the way.

Andrew Henley brought operatic strength to the tenor solos, while Liz Hill, the choir’s talented piano accompanist, sang the alto solo voice beautifully.

Kate Macpherson played four contrasting organ pieces, by French contemporaries of Rachmaninov and a fellow Russian. She finished with Vocalise by Rachmaninov, providing a fitting platform for the climax of the Vespers.

Bishop's Stortford Choral Society in concert at All Saints' Church on Saturday (31695177)
Bishop's Stortford Choral Society in concert at All Saints' Church on Saturday (31695177)

Richard Brain, the choir’s musical director, was delighted with the outcome. He said the choir’s dedication and enormous efforts had led to a fantastic performance. David Boarder, the choir’s former music director, enthused: "I love the ambition of the choir and they achieved a strong sound and balance."

Rachmaninov’s Vespers has been said to represent the end of an era, as he wrote the piece in 1915, when Russia was in political turmoil and the First World War was raging. This Saturday, singers set aside their worries about the threat of coronavirus and its impact on our era and, transported by the power of the music and their sense of achievement, finished the evening on a high.

The choir was formed in 1940 and, all being well, will celebrate with Barnet Choir their 80th anniversaries with a joint performance of Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius. This is currently scheduled for June 27 at Saffron Hall. But, of course, the choral society is keeping a close eye on Government coronavirus announcements and will respond as appropriate.

As usual the choral society held a raffle at the concert and raised £221 for the Holy Trinity Winter Night Shelter.

Bishop's Stortford Choral Society in concert at All Saints' Church on Saturday (31695175)
Bishop's Stortford Choral Society in concert at All Saints' Church on Saturday (31695175)

* Bishop's Stortford Choral Society is a group of around 100 singers, led by accomplished musical director Richard Brain. It is always pleased to welcome new members, hence an open rehearsal on Thursday April 30 at 7.45pm at the Water Lane United Reformed Church.

The choir sings large-scale choral music by new and established composers and holds its concerts locally, most often in the town. It rehearses on a Thursday evening at 7.45pm at Water Lane URC from September to July. For more information, go to http://www.singwithbscs.org.uk and @singwithbscs on Facebook.

For information and tickets for The Dream of Gerontius at Saffron Hall, go to http://www.saffronhall.com/calendar/elgar-the-dream-of-gerontius.


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