With a disciplined entrance and the visual tone nicely set the concert kicked off — rather ambitiously — with Muhly’s I Cannot Attain Unto It. Although the choir was perhaps a degree or two out of their comfort zone in this tricky modern piece, it provided an ethereal and undeniably ear-catching start.

The concert blended early English polyphony with young innovative composer Nico Muhly. From there we were treated to the more familiar Mass For Four Voices by William Byrd, which was smooth, lyrical and expressive.

As an organ interlude we were presented with an appropriately unusual creation by the Estonian Arvo Pärt: Pari Intervallo. It was worth the effort of getting into this minimalistic yet descriptive piece although in reality “getting into” it was more a process of “drifting off into”. Organist Nicholas Shaw did a praiseworthy job of making the most out of the electric organ.

The female voices did great justice to the concluding item of the first half, the beautiful I Saw Eternity by Alexander Campkin. With close, high harmonies and gradual harmonic shifts reminiscent of Eric Whitacre, the music was perfectly matched to the text and painted vivid pictures in the listener’s mind.

The first two pieces of the second half, Jesum Autem Transiens (Robert Wylkynson) and O Christe Jesu, Pastor Bone (John Taverner) made for decidedly pleasant but unremarkable listening. My personal favourite item of the concert was Woefully Arrayed by William Cornysh, arranged by Matthew Hamilton. This piece was the true highlight of the evening as it was beautifully suited to the individual voices and overall style of the choir, which combined to achieve a bright and well-blended tone. It seemed obvious that the choir felt at ease with this piece and very much enjoyed singing it, which made it all the more enjoyable to watch and listen to.

The impressive modern organ work Alleluyas (for organ) by Simon Preston shook things up and roused the audience out of their happy daze, and the concert concluded, in a pleasingly cyclical manner with Muhly’s Bright Mass with Canons.

The modern works were juxtaposed nicely with their sources of inspiration. Clearly, the ambitious programme had been thoughtfully put together and the choir and its conductor were striving to achieve great new things.

The Henley Standard, 5 December 2011