The programme opened with Haydn’s cheerful “St Nicolas Mass”. This featured soloists from the choir itself: Kathryn Morris, Barbara Pomfret, Frances Durning and Adrian Guy, who did the piece credit.
After the interval, when there was a presentation to retiring president Peter Conway, two extra musicians were featured in solo pieces. Organist Gary Hulme played Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in C major (BWV 547), a piece of increasing complexity but overall serene feel. Harpist Maxine Molin Rose played a piece by a modern composer, Deborah Henson-Conant. Entitled “Baroque Flamenco”, it sounds like a fight between a flamenco and a minuet. The flamenco wins.
Percussionist Alex Walker and treble Seth Barber also featured in Leonard Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms”, sung in Hebrew, not the easiest language for a choir. In setting psalms, Bernstein tears up the rule book. The piece opened with a crash on percussion. The lively Psalm 100 (“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord”) followed. The sweet-voiced treble and harp then began Psalm 23 (“The Lord is my Shepherd”). With varying moods, the piece also featured Psalm 2 (“Why do the nations rage”), Psalm 131 (Lord, Lord”), and concluded with Psalm 133 (“Behold how good”). A setting that went straight to the meanings of the psalms, with all their emotion, was brilliantly performed.