Three contrasting 20th Century works made up the programme of this concert, given by the English Philharmonia chorus and orchestra. By adopting this title, used by the amateur Berkhamsted Choral Society and Chorleywood Choral Society, performing together, they set themselves an ambitious target, which, in large measure, they achieved.

The concert began with The Seasons, for the choir with string orchestra. There were solo parts, among which the piano was played by Sebastian Weeks, who composed this work. Other soloists were Ben Castle (saxophone), Chris Laurence (double bass) and Ralph Salmins (drums). The work is a setting of four poems on respectively Spring (by William Blake), Dusk in June (by Sara Teasdale), Autumn Song (by Dante Gabriel Rossetti) and Snow Song (also by Sara Teasdale). Given these attributions, it is no surprise that this work has the character of a concerto for jazz quartet with choir and orchestra. It is excitingly written, and the challenge that was to follow perhaps explains some initial uncertainties in the performance.

Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, which followed, though well known and enthusiastically received by the audience, had neither the novelty of Weeks’s The Seasons nor the impact of the Carmina Burana after the interval.

Few musical works of any period have a more arresting opening than the Carmina Burana. It is a setting, dating from 1936, by the German composer Carl Orff, of a group of poems in mediaeval Latin and German, said to have been collected about 1230. They were discovered in 1803 in the abbey of Benediktbeuern, near Munich - the printed programme called it Beuren, no doubt to emphasise the link with the title of the collection. They are poems of love, satire and cameraderie, including a number of drinking songs. Forget the subtleties of Shostakovich or Britten; this is an immensely energetic work in 21 sections with a basically simple pattern, for a large orchestra with specially prominent percussion. It has arresting melodies, used repeatedly; the initial one returns at the end. Its harmonies are simple. Its exciting effect is largely due to the orchestration, well rendered by the orchestra; the choir had some awkward moments. Under the accomplished conducting of Graham Wili, the choir and orchestra generally achieved a good balance, though the tempo and dynamics might sometimes have been more varied.

Those of the poems that are set for soloists were sung with fine tone and comviction by Gail Pearson (soprano – her top notes were particularly expressive), David Burrows (tenor) and Dyfed Wyn Evans (baritone). On occasion, the boys of Aldro School added a special voice quality.

For the benefit of those in the audience who knew neither the Latin nor the German of the 13th Century (most of us!), the programme provided Brian Shepherd’s new English translation of the poems from the Carmina Burana; but the translations into English verse by Helen Waddell are better known. She pointed out that, unlike most lyric poetry, these songs express a sense of youth and joy without the regret and wistfulness that are often found. All those involved with the English Philharmonia in this performance can be well pleased with the joyful result of their efforts. Grahm Mordue