I went to this concert primarily so as to be able to hear Frederick Stocken’s new work, Archangels. The performance of that work was preceded by the Choir of St Mary’s Woodford singing sixteenth century church music, conducted by Mr Stocken. It would be unjustified hyperbole to say that they sang like angels, but within the expected limitation of a small unprofessional choir, they did a very good job indeed, and by the time they were well warmed-up and singing If ye love me by Tallis and Ave verum corpus by Byrd they sang beautifully to give a rendition of those works that was strong and very moving to hear.

Thereafter Arwen Newband accompanied by Anna Le Hair performed Z domoviny (From my homeland) for violin and piano, bringing out well the special atmosphere of its Czech folk melodies, that seem able to be both happy and sad, and the contrasting material’s stirring dance rhythms.

Frederick Stocken’s three short pieces for solo organ, Archangels, were inspired by the idea of portraying the archangels, St Gabriel, St Raphael and St Michael. He had in mind classic images of archangels, ‘supremely magnificent creatures with gigantic wings’. Engaging and often very exciting figurations, especially in the upper registers, conjure up the motion of these wings. In the first and last pieces the more statuesque aspect of these mighty beings is presented by progressions of repeated short melodic motives in the bass, ever changing but always recognisable, and in each case increasing the tension. St Gabriel dwells on the events of the Annunciation, and builds to a resplendent climax when Mary assents to become ‘Mother of God’. In the last piece, the relentless progress of the dotted melody in the bass is ornamented by colourful treble figurations of increasing excitement – the whole picturing St Michael victorious over Satan, that brings the work to a very effective rousing conclusion. In between these two, contrast is provided by a slow, quiet meditation of descending chords on St Raphael as healer, the thee pieces forming a nicely balanced whole, and presenting a dramatic and inspired encounter with these high-ranking angels which the audience responded to with immediate enthusiasm.

In the second half Ann Le Hair rattled through Chabrier’s Valse-scherzo – by which I don’t mean to cast any aspersions on her performance, far from it: it’s just that sort of piece! Then she was joined by Arwen Newband, Edmund Booth on violins, Nicholas Turner, viola, and Sarah Boxhall cello – and it was Sarah’s big moment to present that glorious opening melody of Dvořák's Piano Quintet in A. She did it well: no sentimental lingering, but deeply expressive nevertheless – and later when it was the violin’s turn, Arwen’s slightly more animated take on the theme also went straight to the heart. It’s a long movement with repeated exposition that never outstays its welcome, so prolific is Dvořák's inventiveness for colour and melody, and the end is so animated and exciting that it brought a great guffaw from one member of the audience as it finished. The second movement ‘Dumka’ – a movement in which a deeply melancholy theme, played very movingly by pianist and viola player, alternates with highly contrasted lively sections. The two quick movements were dispatched with infectious vitality bringing a lovely concert to a warm-hearted close.