CONCERT REVIEW: Brahms Requiem

York Musical Society and Philharmonischer Chor Münster, York Minster, 12 November 2016

Review by Claire McGinn

Situated directly between Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, and dedicated to the memory of long-standing YMS supporter Donald Barron, this concert saw York Musical Society joined by visiting ensemble Philharmonischer Chor Münster.

As always, contact between choir and director David Pipe was good, and entries were clear. The added challenge of the Minster’s acoustic, within quicker phrases, was a little disruptive elsewhere – but in the swirling mists of Vaughan Williams’s Toward the Unknown Region it was effective.

Richard Shephard replaced Pipe for Strauss’s Four Last Songs with soprano Jenny Stafford. Although the relentlessly rich colours started to blur after a while, the interpretation was subtly sensitive.

Baritone David Stout’s delivery was emphatic, and Stafford’s delicate high notes sublimely tasteful, in Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem under Pipe.

Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen, the well-loved fourth movement, is often taken indulgently slowly, which can detract from its inherent tenderness. Happily, the positive pace here maintained expressiveness without wallowing (or drowning in the Minster’s generous acoustic).

The reassuring mutual confidence between director and ensemble was made clear by how quickly and coolly they got back on track at the handful of moments when timing or tuning slipped.

The programme notes recalled that a YMS performance demonstrated a century ago that this work ‘transcended’ war and politics and was ‘the common possession of the whole world’. Both the message and the group’s love of the piece are alive and important today.

Reproduced by kind permission of the Press 14/11/16

100-year-old link renewed

Throughout World War I, York Musical Society (YMS) sang Brahms’ German Requiem in the Minster every November because of its beauty, humanity and the comfort of its words and music. On 12 November this year, this link with the past will be renewed when YMS is joined by the Münster Philharmonischer Chor, from York’s German twin city of Münster, for a performance. It will again be sung in the Minster with the two choirs.

The concert is dedicated to Sir Donald Barron, who died last Christmas. He had been a member of YMS since 1953 and later became a very supportive patron, as well as playing a key role in many York organisations. His family are sponsoring the performance in his memory.

The Requiem does not use the usual words of the Latin Requiem Mass. Instead, Brahms chose other words from both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible to comfort the bereaved. It is believed that Brahms wrote part of his Requiem after the attempted suicide of a close friend and most of the rest after the death of his own mother. It was first performed in 1868.

The evening will include Richard Strauss’ moving Four Last Songs, also sung in German. The songs, written for soprano soloist and orchestra, were composed just a year before Strauss’ death but were not actually performed until a year afterwards in 1949.

The programme will be completed by Toward the Unknown Region. Set for choir and orchestra by much-loved English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, it uses words by American poet Walt Whitman. Vaughan Williams’ music ideally complements Whitman’s words of visionary hopefulness.

Conductor David Pipe says: “The combined forces of the York and Münster choirs will offer a wonderful palette of dynamic and tonal resources to exploit fully the huge variety and emotion in Brahms’ Requiem, and equally the sense of mystery and power in Vaughan Williams’ evocative Toward the Unknown Region.”

The performance will be at 7.30 p.m. on Saturday 12 November 2016 at York Minster.

 NEWS RELEASE FROM YORK MUSICAL SOCIETY

 Date   19 October 2016

CONCERT REVIEW: Orff – Carmina Burana

Review in York Press

York Musical Society, York Barbican, June 11, 2016

Review by Claire McGinn

A short first half of Brahms comprised Geistlicheslied for piano and chorus, followed by the high-spirited Zigeunerlieder for solo soprano, alto, tenor and bass quartet. Kirsty Hopkins, Kate Symonds-Joy, Greg Tassell, and Andrew Mayor made the most of this light-hearted collection.

The second half – the main event – was a hugely enjoyable ride on the rollercoaster of Carl Orff’s vivacious Carmina Burana. Entries were confident and (despite one or two minor hiccups) ensemble, dynamics, and connection with director David Pipe were impressively consistent and accurate; no mean feat for such a large group.

Expertly accompanied by pianists Polly Sharpe and Nico de Villiers, along with six percussionists, the choir took this challenging work in their stride. York Junior Youth choir supported the group with enthusiasm, seizing their moment to shine alongside Hopkins in the irresistible Amor Volat Undique.

Tricky corners – exposed pianissimo high notes for the upper voices and fast-paced syllabic patter in Latin – were generally negotiated with style and ease.

Baritone Njabulo Madlala’s assured and expressive falsetto in Dies, Nox Et Omnia was no less arresting than his tempestuous delivery of the fiery Estuans Interius.

A notable highlight was Tassell’s appropriately sinister but unusually glamorous “roasted swan”. Dressed in white, replete with wings, face paint and feather boa, Tassell appeared from behind the audience for this morbid serenade and mimed turning a roasting spit before running dramatically offstage.

The ensemble’s exuberant performance matched the irrepressible ebullience of the work; the rapturous audience reception was well deserved.

Reproduced by kind permission of The Press

CONCERT REVIEW: Mozart Mass in C Minor, Carter Benedicite

Review in York Press

York Musical Society, York Minster, March 20, 2016

Mozart’s Mass in C minor is a rarity. It would be given much more often if only he had finished it. So it was a real treat to hear in York, not least with two soprano soloists of exceptional calibre.

Haydn’s Representation of Chaos and Andrew Carter’s colourful Benedicite were performed ahead of it in Saturday’s programme conducted by David Pipe.

What remains of the mass after only half a Credo and no Agnus Dei is still Mozart at his best. York Musical Society clearly thought so too. The choir, with sopranos in particular sounding rejuvenated, delivered a majestic Gratias Agimus, a truly penitential Qui Tollis and plenty of welly to close the Gloria.

Only the fugal Osanna lacked definition. The orchestra provided sterling support throughout, the strings working tirelessly.

Anita Watson negotiated the wide leaps of Christe Eleison with aplomb, and her lithe soprano was entrancing at Et Incarnatus. Mezzo-soprano Esther Brazil made an exciting impact with her coloratura in Laudamus Te, and teamed smoothly with Watson in the turbulence of Domine Deus.

The York Civic and York Junior Youth Choirs joined YMS for the non-liturgical parts of the Carter work, introducing amusing characters “that Noah forgot to mention”, such as badgers, butterflies and grannies.

The combined choirs captured the music’s overall reverence well, but words were too often indistinct despite – a definite bonus – being in the printed programme. It remained for the orchestra to paint the work’s brightest hues.

Review by Martin Dreyer

CONCERT REVIEW: Jenkins – The Armed Man

By Martin Dreyer

York Minster, 14 November 2015

IN the immediate aftermath of the Paris massacres, Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man, subtitled A Mass for Peace, offered a timely antidote. Saturday evening’s performance, conducted by David Pipe, was preceded by a salutary moment of silence.

This concentrated the minds of choir and orchestra alike: there was palpable determination in the martial opening. The presence of a muezzin, Ustadh Adam Aslam, intoning the Muslim call to prayer from the pulpit, lent welcome perspective, since Jenkins’ underlying use of the mediaeval melody L’Homme Armé (“the armed man should be feared”) implies that warlike intent – from any quarter – has always bedevilled civilisation.

The bombastic Kyrie and ironic Sanctus carried special impact, building towards a terrifying climax in Charge!. The soloists, soprano Katie Trethewey and baritone Greg Skidmore, provided catharsis in Toge Sankichi’s post-Hiroshima musings; Trethewey, singing solo, was movingly smooth in Now The Guns Have Stopped, alongside gentle strings. Military fife and drums returned for the finale, where the choir conjured optimism from part of Tennyson’s Ring Out, Wild Bells – even if Jenkins’ un-harmonised last chord left ambivalence in the air.

In a Vaughan Williams second half, Sophie Lockett’s confident violin, rightly shunning sentimentality, turned that old chestnut The Lark Ascending into something new-minted and fresh, floating her tone into the welcoming acoustic. Similarly, it was a treat to hear the orchestral version of Five Mystical Songs, with Skidmore’s ringing clarity making the very most of George Herbert’s poetry. The choir shadowed him beautifully.

Reproduced by kind permission of The Press

Sir Karl Jenkins to Attend Performance of The Armed Man in York Minster

York Musical Society and Orchestra ‘s (YMS) performance of The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace in York Minster on Saturday, November 14 2015 at 7.30 p.m. will be attended by the composer, Sir Karl Jenkins. He will be accompanied by Guy Wilson, former Master of the Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds, who commissioned the work to mark the Millennium and who contributed some of the text. An audience in excess of 800 is expected to attend the concert. Karl Jenkins was knighted in the 2015 Queen’s Birthday Honours announced on June 15 ‘for his services to composing and crossing musical genres’.

A recent survey has revealed the work to have been performed over 1500 times in 30 different countries since its premiere; thus it is the most-performed piece by a living composer. The original recording of The Armed Man has been in the official Chart List of top-selling classical albums since its launch fourteen years ago – 690 weeks in total.

The concert programme includes Vaughan Williams’ Five Mystical Songs and The Lark Ascending. David Pipe, YMS Director of Music, will conduct and the soloists are soprano Katie Trethewey, baritone Greg Skidmore and violin soloist Sophie Lockett.

YMS is a large and thriving choral society that has contributed to the musical and cultural life of the city of York since 1876. We enjoy performing a challenging repertoire, including many of the large-scale choral works such as Handel’s Messiah, the Bach Passions and several well-loved Requiems. Most of our concerts are held in York Minster and attract audiences not only from the York area but also across the county. There are 160 mixed-age members of the choir.

For further information, please contact:
John Pearson
Email: pearsonjohn217@gmail.com
Telephone: 01904 628711

 

Notes to Editors

Sir Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man is a powerful and compelling account of the onset and terrible consequences of war. Set within extracts from the Christian Mass it draws on sources both musical and textual from other cultures and religions to dwell on martial themes, with a final, hopeful resolution in peace. It is both dramatic and moving.

Poignantly, its first recording, by The National Youth Choir of Great Britain and The National Musicians Symphony Orchestra, was issued in September 2001, the day before the attack on the Twin Towers in New York. It soon entered the charts of the top-50 biggest-selling classical albums, and has remained there on 690 of the subsequent 728 weeks – by far the most popular of all recordings over this period.

Essentially an anti-war piece, The Armed Man has particular resonance during current commemorations of the First World War and this performance by York Musical Society Choir and Orchestra, under David Pipe, is scheduled for Saturday November 14 following Remembrance Sunday.

Five Mystical Songs are based on poems by the Anglican priest George Herbert. Vaughan Williams’ score expresses a serious and thoughtful reflection to Herbert’s devotional verses.

The Lark Ascending is one of the most enduring works for solo violin and orchestra. Vaughan Williams combines the beauty of soaring strings with a calm background accompaniment to create a true celebration of the English countryside. This will be a joy to hear in the wonderful space of York Minster.