Harpenden Choral Society’s taste of Africa

ZIMBE! was the main offering by Harpenden Choral Society in High St Methodist Church on Saturday.

Written in 2008 by multi-talented musician Alexander L’Estrange, it encapsulates African society in songs from Ghana, Xhosa and Zimbabwe using infectious jazz accompaniment. In 14 sections there is pathos, raucousness, sensuality and jubilation, all representing a typical day in the life of an African village both literally and figuratively.

The choir was supported strongly by jazz quintet Call Me Al with outstanding contributions from the saxophonist. Joined by Primary School choirs from St Helen’s, Wheathampstead, and Roundwood, Harpenden, the entire ensemble imparted a feeling of family unity which was quickly picked up by the capacity audience.

Exciting band breaks and effective use of ostinato coupled with good attention to dynamics made this an inspirational performance. The highlight was Njooni! Zimbe! (Come, sing the songs of Africa!). All praise goes to conductor John Andrews who as usual gave crystal clear direction and a mature interpretation.

A medley of popular songs from yesteryear preceded Zimbe! Entitled In the Mood, the appreciative audience was treated to numbers such as Tea for Two, Smoke Gets in your Eyes and Over the Rainbow. The arrangements were superb and diction was crisp. Some exhilarating close harmonies as well as many dramatic and theatrical effects demonstrated a high standard of musicianship. Expertly accompanied by Alexander L’Estrange, even his young son couldn’t resist giving an impromptu dance. This was a most happy and joyous family event.