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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
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.

CONCERT REVIEW – Summer Celebrations

By Martin Dreyer

There’s nothing like a musical knees-up. On Saturday, which happened to be Her Majesty’s official birthday, we enjoyed plenty of choral praise – a Te Deum, a Gloria, and a Coronation Mass – plus a jovial symphony, with Psalm 23 injecting a sense of proportion.

YMS was up for it. Stirred by an orchestra at the top of its form and led by David Pipe’s decisive baton, this was a choir almost unrecognisable from six months ago.

His second Te Deum may be fairly regulation Haydn, but it soon swung into an easy stride. When we had reached the Credo of Mozart’s Coronation Mass, there was a clearly a new spirit of choral self-belief abroad. In the wake of the solo quartet’s reverent Incarnatus, we might have had a more hushed Crucifixus.

But the Sanctus was notably invigorating and soprano Catrin Woodruff’s prettily phrased Agnus Dei provided the icing on the cake.

English composers took over after the interval. Philip Moore’s largely pastoral setting of Psalm 23 (2011), with strings and organ, here enjoying its second performance, gains immeasurably from the frequent repetition of its opening verse, each time in a different key, as if to underline its unchanging message, come what may. It was treated affectionately, and proved immediately endearing.

Boyce’s rococo First Symphony, equally engaging, played prelude to Rutter’s youthfully exuberant Gloria (1974).

Blazing brass and percussion, recalling Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast, encouraged the choir to let its hair down. An apt dessert indeed.

Reproduced by kind permission of the York Evening Press –


York Musical Society (“YMS”) returns to rehearsals, after the Easter break, on Tuesday 9th April. It is therefore an ideal time to join us and get in on the action!

Our next concert is “Summer Celebrations” which takes place on Saturday 15th June in York Minster where we will be performing:

  • Mozart: Coronation Mass (K317)
  • Rutter: Gloria
  • Haydn: Te Deum
  • Moore: Psalm 23

For further details on joining and how to arrange for your audition, please see the “Get Involved” section of our website.

We look forward to seeing you!

CONCERT REVIEW – Bach St Matthew Passion

A Passionate Performance
Bach St Matthew Passion, York Musical Society, York Minster

by Martin Scheuregger

THE most powerful aspect of York Musical Society’s presentation of Bach’s St Matthew Passion on Saturday night was their clear communication of the narrative. Performing the story of the Passion at this time of year made it all the more effective.

The courtroom drama of the opening of Part Two was especially intense, as soloists, chorus and orchestra performed with a well paced sense of dialogue. Conductor David Pipe’s control of these elements was well judged.

The singers delivered their parts with just the right level of drama, although in this English rendering one misses the acerbic rhythmic bite of the German. This was especially so in what should be utterly arresting interruptions by the chorus in the aria, “Behold, My Saviour Now Is Taken”.

The Minster does not provide an easy environment to perform such music in, but the soloists punctured the reverb with clarity, especially Evangelist, Paul Smy and Christ, Julian Tovey.

In contrast, Joseph Cornwell (tenor) and Jonathan Saunders (bass) delivered instances of lyrical beauty. Soprano Laurie Ashworth’s tone was well-suited to this repertoire, but a more intimate environment would have benefited her voice.

Indeed, this performance would have been better suited to a more immediate acoustic.

However, the production of a sacred oratorio in a religious building does provide an authentic dimension. In the Minster’s Festival of Passions – of which this is a part – this music is somewhat reconnected with its original purpose: an intelligent move by those organising it.

Reproduced by kind permission of the York Evening Press –

PRESS RELEASE – HRH Princess Beatrice of York becomes patron of York Musical Society


York Musical Society (“YMS”) is pleased to announce that Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrice of York has agreed to become its Patron.
The YMS is the oldest musical society in the country, tracing its origins back to 1765. Rule 2 in 1825 said:
“No person in any business or profession shall be deemed admissible as a Member of this Society, unless he be a principal or partner in such business or profession”. The total membership was limited to sixty, who met on Mondays at 7.00 p.m. in BAYNES’S coffee house in Petergate. Supper was at 9.30 p.m. and cost two shillings (10p) which included malt liquor. Members could bring friends to meetings (but not more than one in four meetings) if they were residents of York. Instrumental performers “being disqualified by Rule 2 from being admitted into this Society” were not subject to this restriction and could be introduced at any meeting. 
Happily the Society follows a more welcoming and enlightened policy of membership nowadays.
David Pipe, Musical Director of the Society said, “It is a great honour for the York Musical Society to have a Royal Patron. We are all delighted that Her Royal Highness has accepted the invitation and we look forward to welcoming her to one of our concerts.”

CONCERT REVIEW – Bach Canata 147, Haydn: Nelson Mass, Haydn: Trumpet Concerto

Saturday 10 November 2012 – York Minster
Review by Martin Dreyer

YMS is on a roll.Its conductor, David Pipe, appointed only this year, is talented, genial and keen. A recruitment drive has introduced youthful new blood, particularly into the soprano ranks. Why then was this programme of Bach and Haydn less than the sum of its parts? It takes a particular type of courage to start an evening with one of Bach’s most unforgiving choruses. The fame of his Cantata 147, written for a May 31 feast day, rests on its chorales, set in English as Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring (but sung in German here). The choir’s mettle was severely tested by the opening. It was far from a disaster, but it lacked the clean edge of confidence. The chorales, however, were a pleasure. Only one of the four soloists, contralto Catherine Griffiths, had the measure of their role. Her composure in aria and arioso, both beautifully buoyed by oboes, was exemplary. Haydn’s ‘‘Nelson’’ mass had a much better feel. With the orchestra sustaining a seamless underlay, the choir’s attacks were bold and focused. The quiet start of the Sanctus was especially effective. Rebecca Hodgetts revealed a bright soprano, but it needed straighter tone and more flexible coloratura. No doubt the tenor and bass are excellent choralists, but as soloists they were out of their depth here. In between, Richard Blake was the assertive trumpeter in Haydn’s concerto. His cadenza was sensibly spacious in this acoustic and his long lines in the slow movement were impressive.

Reproduced by kind permission of the York Evening Press –