Choir jazz things up for St Albans church

TOP quality jazz events are a rarity in St Albans, but if the size of the audience at St Saviour’s Church on Saturday is anything to go by, there is clearly an audience for them.

The concert was a rare combination of a choir and fine jazz musicians – in this case the St Albans Chamber Choir, the Will Todd Trio and local saxophonist David Wigram together with jazz singer Bethany Halliday.

The central reason was a performance of Will Todd’s sensational Mass in Blue, a work commissioned by the Hertfordshire Chorus and which received its premier in St Albans Abbey in 2003.

Todd’s love for both jazz and choral music is clear throughout the work which skilfully blends the two genres to stunning effect.

Under musical director John Gibbons, the choir worked superbly with the musicians and Bethany Halliday to produce a remarkable musical event.

More accustomed to singing traditional, often early music, the choir members demonstrated tremendous versatility as well as great performing skill as they handled the subtleties of the work, which, in spite of its style, never detracted from the meaning of the Latin text.

The trio and David Wigram had earlier joined the choir in performances of John Rutter’s Birthday Madrigals and Karl Jenkins witty nonsense piece A Parliament of Owls.

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Rutter’s work, which alternately uses jazz and more traditional choral styles, also clearly demonstrated the choir’s versatility as they handled the changes from the swinging version of It Was a Lover and his Lass to the gentle sounds of Draw on, Sweet Night.

Between the madrigals and A Parliament of Owls the trio did their own thing with exciting, toe tapping arrangements of Somewhere Over the Rainbow and Let There Be Joy in My Heart.

As one of the city’s most respected musicians commented at the end of the performance, “This could well be the highlight of the year” and if the size and reaction of the audience are anything to go by other groups have been set an extremely high standard for the future.