To celebrate their half century, Summertown Choral Society took their audience on a journey through England’s choral tradition on Saturday night — a journey that also reflected the incredibly varied repertoire they have tackled over the years. Handel’s My Heart is Inditing was a joyous and attention-grabbing start, with the singers clearly in celebratory mood. Under the very precise guidance of conductor Duncan Saunderson, entries and endings were spot on, diction was crystal clear and together the singers and orchestra created a great sense of occasion.

In contrast, the Foundling Hospital Anthem, which Handel wrote as patron of Thomas Coram’s Foundling Hospital in London, was sung with compassion and sincerity, until the final movement — the familiar Hallelujah chorus from Messiah — which was delivered with an uplifting flourish. Mendelssohn’s Ave Maria, sandwiched between the two, gave full reign to the lyrical beauty of the piece.

Star attraction James Gilchrist commanded the attention with his gritty, no-nonsense delivery, although unusually his voice sounded slightly rough around the edges, particularly during My Heart is Inditing. I preferred the sweeter tones of counter-tenor Stephen Burrows, the beautiful richness of bass George Coltart and the light lyricism of soprano Carys Lane.

The second half was devoted to a miscellany of choral works, representing a variety of moods and styles, from Brahms and Parry to Tippett and Copland. Two items clearly of special significance to the choir included Grayston Ives’s Songs of Ariel, which they commissioned and premiered in 2009, and the premiere of their most recent commission, Philip Moore’s Three Oxford Songs. James Gilchrist seemed to have benefited from the interval and gave a particularly beautiful and moving rendition of Brahms’s In stiller nacht, while there were strong contributions from sopranos Carys Lane and Helen Parker. For Summertown Choral Society, this was an interesting wander down memory lane, and a triumphant way to mark their anniversary.