Reviews, thanks and congratulations after a fabulous world premiere and 50th anniversary Gala Concert

What a wonderful world premiere of The Ice is Listening and 50th anniversary Gala Concert took place on April 1st. In this special post, we’re providing links to the excellent reviews in the Henley Standard and Henley Herald as well as the feedback, thanks and thoughts from Richard Harker, Musical Director, Cecilia McDowall, composer, Kate Wakeling, librettist and Peter Asprey, past Musical Director who orginally set the ball rolling on the commission.

Richard Harker:

“Thank you all so very much indeed for Saturday’s terrific performance. I was delighted with how you all rose to the challenge of tricky and unfamiliar music, and performed to such a high standard. My thanks to each and every singer in the choir, you have all worked so hard this term and shown real commitment to putting on a glorious concert, well done indeed.

Thanks to our fantastic team of soloists, Emily for tackling the McDowall solo at the eleventh hour, singing it so beautifully and hauntingly. To Christine for stepping in at the last minute, and to Lara, Nick and Ali for their wonderful Bach and Vivaldi singing, which was a real treat to hear.

A huge thank you to our outstanding leader Abi and her team of instrumentalists, who played with such energy and verve in the concert and to whose good will I am grateful for in a high pressure rehearsal. Oboist Penny and harpist Catrin deserve special mentions for their exceptional playing, and to Chris on cello for his beautiful continuo playing.

Dave has been absolutely terrific, as always, in helping us prepare for this concert and I am so grateful to him for everything he does to support us each week. And a bonus treat to have him on continuo for the concert – thank you Dave!

 My thanks to Cecilia and Kate too, for writing us such a wonderful piece to perform. The atmosphere, musical textures and engaging text made for an instantly appealing and enjoyable piece to learn and perform and I am simply delighted that it was us who were able to breath life into it first.

 Finally, enormous thanks to the committee and the vast team of helpers who work tirelessly to make everything possible. From staging, to glossy programmes, to seating plans, finances and not least getting cups of coffee for the conductor, it is all most appreciated and I am thankful to have such a numerous and dedicated group of volunteers in HCS.

 See you for some Chilcott next term!

 Love as ever, Richard”

Cecilia McDowall:

“That really was a terrific concert [last night], full of dizzying dazzle and delight. Thank you!  Please do pass on my warmest thanks to absolutely everyone for a really excellent concert and, most especially, for a truly magnificent performance of The Ice is Listening. 

It has been a joy to work not only with Kate on this collaboration but with you all on this first performance which was excellent in every way. 

Richard, you have worked tirelessly and brilliantly in bringing The Ice is Listening to life, drawing such a vital and engaged reading of the work from your singers. I just loved it all. 

 The first movement was full of delicious rhythmic drive and sparkle, the words always clear, and it was a delight to hear such a chattering of teeth! There was a real beauty of tone from the choir in the second movement giving a haunting underlay to the soprano soloist. I imagine it is never easy to step in at the last minute but Emily, with barely 24 hours to learn the part, sang with great dignity and composure, bringing a lovely edge to the ‘The ice is listening’. The last movement was a real delight … it was spirited, fun and clear in intent. The words shone through and the choir gave a thrilling sense of enjoyment for which many grateful thanks to you all.

 So much work and endeavour goes into bringing a new work into the light and last night’s full house was testament to the affectionate support the Henley Choral Society has not just locally but further afield. 

 The chamber orchestra was excellent and Richard, would you be kind enough to convey my grateful thanks to everyone?

 I was immensely touched by the very kind words from many of the singers (audience, too) last night – it is always a thrill to receive such a warm response! And Richard, to hear you say, you would like to do it all again, was very special!

 And the flowers … they are simply beautiful and a wonderful reminder of an epic evening with you all.

 Many. Many thanks to you all for a fabulous evening and a truly splendid premiere of The Ice is Listening,


Kate Wakeling:

“Huge congratulations to Richard and the choir for a marvellous performance – of The Ice is Listening and across the programme as a whole. The whole occasion felt such a special evening and a brilliant way to mark this landmark in the choir’s history. I have enormously enjoyed working on The Ice is Listening from start to finish – and thank you so much to everyone at HCS for their terrifically warm welcome and for their wonderful engagement with the piece in every possible way. Thank you also for the beautiful flowers!

Sending my very best wishes,


Peter Asprey: previous Musical Director 

“It was a real triumph for the anniversary concert. Many congratulations to the choir. Please pass that on to them. It was so lovely to be back and to hear everyone sing. It was a spirited performance and I’m so impressed by the sound of the choir, the excellent vowel sounds and how engaged everyone is! Clearly some excellent work by Richard this year. 

Thank you for inviting me. 

all the best


None of this could take place without our wonderful Musical Director, Richard Harker. His hard work, meticulous preparation and mix of humour and determination seems to get the best out of the choral society. Having Peter Asprey in the audience was a reminder of how lucky we have been to have such fine conductors over the years. And we continue to have a fantastic accompanist in Dave Smith. HCS is very lucky indeed!

Next term starts on Monday 17th April, 7.30pm d:two, Marketplace. There are no auditions. If you would like to come along for a free session to see if HCS is for you, please call Wendy Hawkins, Membership Secretary on 01491 576929.

Our next event in this bumper 50th anniversary year is an all-day singing workshop with renowned composer and conductor Bob Chilcott, 10.30am – 4.30pm, Saturday 20th May 2023, St Mary’s Church, Henley. All singers welcome to come and enjoy a day singing and learning  in a friendly and supportive environment.

Songs and Cries of London, Like a Singing Bird, and A Little Jazz Mass    

Tickets: HCS Members £15.00 inc. music hire; non-members £25.00 inc. music hire.

This event is free for those under 30 years of age and people in receipt of disability or income benefit.