Summertown Choral Society’s recent concert was something of a landmark occasion. For the first time in its 48-year history, the society had commissioned a new work, which was given its world premiere in the graceful setting of St Andrew’s Church in Summertown. The chosen composer was Grayston Ives, a former tenor with the King’s Singers and until recently the choir master at Magdalen College.

Ives’s settings of three songs from The Tempest — Come Unto These Yellow Sands, Full Fathom Five and Where the Bee Sucks — were pleasingly adventurous and evocative, and delivered by the choir with style and flair. I expected a slightly more lyrical setting for Come unto these yellow sands, the opening of which was surprisingly frantic, with the sopranos sounding a tad strident. But the music nicely caught the onomatopoeic “Hark, hark! Bow-wow” and “Cock-a-diddle-dow”, and the singers were clearly having fun with it. Full fathom five was given a suitably sepulchral setting, while Where the bee sucks was jauntier, with effective ornamentation to capture the owl’s hoot.

An impressive debut, then, which was well received by the audience – although I felt that Ives’s songs sat uneasily alongside the Haydn, Mozart and Bach pieces that made up the rest of the programme. The Heavens are Telling from The Creation was a glorious opener, but it was Mozart’s operatic-style Great Mass in B minor that formed the lynchpin of the evening, and there was some impressive work from the choir, who sang with enthusiasm and energy. There was equally impressive work from the two soprano soloists, Jane Sherriff and Catherine Young, and bass Tom Edwards, but it was tenor Chris Watson whose beautifully melodic tones really shone.

As Mozart left his Mass unfinished, the evening ended with the final two movements of Bach’s Mass in B minor, the Agnus Dei and Dona nobis pacem, which featured a fine contribution from countertenor Stephen Burrows.