About HCS: Belshazzar’s Feast

Hereford Choral Society
Geraint Bowen conductor

Belshazzar’s Feast, Walton

First performed in 1931, Belshazzar’s Feast is undoubtedly one of the most exhilarating works in the choral repertoire, loved by both audiences and those involved in its performance.

In the space of single movement lasting just under 40 minutes, it packs in an earthy portrayal of pagan revels, violent retribution and triumphant jubilation, all vividly realised through the colourful choral and orchestral writing, edgy jazz-influenced rhythms and sparkling harmony.

Despite its impeccable biblical credentials, the Church of England initially considered it unsuitable for performance in cathedrals, and the Three Choirs Festival forbade it until 1957!

Toward the Unknown Region, Vaughan Williams
At its first performance in Leeds in 1907, this piece made an immediate impression on public and critics alike, identifying the composer as a new and important voice in English music. The work’s enduring success stems from its remarkable marriage of music and text, the unmistakable quality of Vaughan Williams’ inspired music perfectly encapsulating Walt Whitman’s noble, humanistic aspirations.

Songs of the Fleet, Stanford
Like the other two works in this programme, Charles Villiers Stanford’s Songs of the Fleet received its premiere at the Leeds Musical Festival, this time in 1910. It sets five poems by Sir Henry Newbolt, having three slower numbers interspersed with two livelier ones. The last of these is The Little Admiral, which has a distinctly comical element to it, before leading into the stirring and solemn final movement, Farewell.