Gloucester Choral Society at Gloucester Cathedral by Christopher Morley
Gloucester Choral Society marked the centenary of the death of Hubert Parry, one of the county's greatest sons, in the most joyous way possible, celebrating the music of the composer himself as well that of some of his most illustrious pupils.
Saturday's Gala Concert, meticulously prepared, rehearsed and presented, with a splendidly-produced programme-book, opened blazingly, Parry`s coronation anthem "I was glad" evoking grandeur and pageantry in this perfect setting. Perhaps indeed there was too much grandeur assaulting the ears in the cathedral's boomy acoustic, with the huge GCS augmented by members of the Oxford Bach Choir and the Boy and Girl Choristers of Gloucester Cathedral Choir, supported by a splendid Philharmonia Orchestra.
To accommodate such sonorous projection conductor Adrian Partington had to select slightly laboured tempi, though full marks to all singers for performing from memory.
A less predictable Parry came with his later Ode on the Nativity, its gentle, lilting pastoralism interleaved with dramatic episodes and radiant joy. Eleanor Dennis was the ecstatic soprano soloist (pity she had to stand throughout), and the choir relished the sturdy contrapuntal lines of the concluding stanza.
Two further sons of Gloucestershire featured, beginning with Vaughan Williams Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, famously premiered at the Three Choirs here in 1910. In Partington's well-paced reading, solo lines interweaving with such clarity, the Philharmonia strings played with an appropriate sense of mystery.
Gustav Holst's Hymn of Jesus followed, equally mystic, but tautly rhythmic, too. Plainchants were atmospherically rendered, and there was an almost painful sense of tenderness delivered by the choir's superlative diction.
John Ireland, the only 'foreigner', was represented by his "Greater Love hath no Man", flowing and well-blended. We ended with Parry's Jerusalem in Elgar's brilliant orchestration, all of us gustily joining in the hearty singing of what I wish were our National Anthem-in-waiting.