Author Archives: Jenny Gwynne

York singers put on Zoom performance for Princess Beatrice

York Press, 8th July 2020
By Haydn Lewis, Live News Editor 

A group of singers from York got to perform for a princess this week.

York Musical Society (YMS), a thriving choral group with hundreds of members, welcomed the Queen’s granddaughter, Princess Beatrice to a Zoom performance of Handel’s Coronation Anthems.

They were also joined by patrons Sir Ron Cooke and Dr Richard Shephard, and vice-presidents Lady Gillian Barron and Philip Moore along with his wife Allison, and Kurt Calder from sponsors, The Shepherd Group.

A group spokesman said: “As we have adapted to the strange times this term and rehearsed via Zoom, we decided to treat our last two sessions as virtual concerts, complete with concert dress.

“Princess Beatrice joined us for the first two anthems and spoke enthusiastically about how everyone has adapted to the situation, and that she is looking forward to being able to join us in person sometime in the not too distant future.”

Like many other cultural activities, YMS concerts and face-to-face rehearsals are cancelled for the whole of 2020 and the YMS committee has also made the decision to cancel their planned November concert and the choral workshop in January next year.

They will reconvene their usual Monday evening rehearsals at St Olave’s School in January.

As the committee email to members puts it: “We know this will be a huge disappointment, but we must make the health of our members and audiences our priority, and adhere to Government guidelines. If the situation changes and it becomes possible for us to get together sooner than January, then we will certainly arrange something.”

YMS activities during Covid-19 lockdown

 

May 13, 2020 by Charles Hutchinson

York Musical Society embraces remote rehearsal revolution for singing therapy

YORK Musical Society’s online rehearsals are on song and on trend, as the Monday sessions on Zoom go from strength to strength.

Session host Lesley Peatfield says: “We’ve been running them from the start of the lockdown, and I’m especially proud as a lot of our older members have successfully navigated the software to be able to manage this.

“Some have even got their first computers for lockdown to be able to appear at our regular Monday night events.”

As many as 80 singers join in, their ages ranging from an 18-year-old bass to 90. “We meet at 7pm for the sopranos and altos and 8pm for the tenors and basses, an hour each every Monday evening, when either David Pipe, our musical director, or John Bradbury, our accompanist, each take a session, leading from the piano, and swap over each week,” says Lesley.

“As well as hosting, I keep each session running technically and answer questions in the chat box.”

In the week the nation went into Covid-19 lockdown, York Musical Society was to have performed at York Minster. “That should have been a night of Faure’s Requiem, alongside a less well-known Michael Haydn requiem, which is so beautiful,” says Lesley.

“We had to cancel, of course, but we do hope to offer that programme sometime next year.”

Coming next, on Saturday, June 13 at York Minster, would have been YMS’s summer concert, Splendours of the Baroque, a joyful programme of Vivaldi’s Gloria, Marcello’s Trumpet Concerto in D minor, Handel’s Arrival Of The Queen Of Sheba and Handel’s Coronation Anthems.

“We’ve had to cancel that concert too,” says Lesley. “The Corona-tion anthems – Zadok The Priest, Let Thy Hand Be Strengthened, The King Shall Rejoice and My Heart Is Inditing – and have never been more appropriate,” says Lesley, poignantly.

After one Zoom rehearsal, Lesley wrote on social media: “Over 80 members joined us for a bit of note bashing for Vivaldi and Handel. Even though we may never perform this, the feeling of the community coming together is priceless.”

Members’ post-session comments to Lesley on the chat line testify to the “virtual” rehearsals being such a breath of fresh singing air amid the pandemic. “Thank you – this is the highlight of my week in lockdown,” said one.

“A very big ‘thank you’ for the Monday evening rehearsals, which I am very much enjoying, and for sending the scores out – much easier to follow,” wrote another. “Thank you to David [Pipe] and to John [Bradbury] for their patience and efforts and to Lesley for her expertise in enabling the sessions.”

A third commented: “I’d just like to express my thanks to you all for organising these online rehearsals. I think David is too modest about how valuable they are musically. We can learn a lot at this stage.

“There is no doubt they are a huge boost to the morale of all the individual members, restoring our sense of community and connection to those we cannot meet in person.” 

A fourth enthused: “It is amazing how some proper singing, even over only half an hour, leaves one with such a good feeling inside.  Can’t wait for the next session.”

The Zoom uplift each Monday is best summed up by one member, who confessed to “enjoying it far more than I thought I would”, concluding that “Singing is pure therapy”.

Such a sentiment no doubt will be shared by so many other singing groups in York and beyond, now in the grip of the “remote rehearsal revolution”, be it Ewa Salecka’s “Prima Virtual Ensemble” or Jessa Liversidge’s myriad groups.

Looking ahead, Lesley says: “We’re rehearsing with a view to an informal performance for friends and family at St Olave’s School, where we normally rehearse in the Shepherd Hall, whenever we manage to get back to face-to-face rehearsals.” Roll on that day.

from: charleshutchpress.co.uk

Review of St John Passion at York Minster, 6th April 2019

Review: York Musical Society, St John Passion,
York Minster, April 6

From The Press, York, 25 April 2019

By Martin Dreyer

THE architecture of Bach’s first Passion is geared for dramatic impact. The York Musical Society choir was in confident form on Saturday (April 6) under the cool direction of David Pipe and there was plenty of theatre in its “crowd” interventions.

The evening got off to a tentative start, with a diffident opening chorus. But nerves were shed thereafter and all four sections revealed a refreshing directness in attack. Best of all, eyes were well out of copies and on the conductor, a sure sign of good preparation. The cry of “Barabbas” was spine-tingling. Special credit goes to the tenors whose vigour belied their relatively small numbers.

Paul Smy was the highly competent Evangelist, tailoring his narrative smoothly. The scourging of Jesus was particularly chilling. Julian Tovey’s diction as Jesus was not as focused and constant use of his score diminished his gravitas. He sang from the pulpit (where surely the Evangelist should have been).

Chloë Latchmore’s mezzo-soprano is a real find. Her strong resonance was most effective in “It is finished”, with the lion of Judah on a stirring rampage. Definitely one to watch. Philippa Boyle’s incisive soprano was well suited to the building. David Pike made a genuine character of Pilate and his bass arias were punchy. He could afford to keep more still, as could tenor Nathan Vale who “conducted” himself.

The orchestra was efficient, even if some obbligato roles were under-coloured. It was the choir that took the laurels.

Martin Dreyer

Review of YMS concert at York Minster, 17 November 2018

Review: York Musical Society, York Minster, November 17

From York Press 19 November 2018

After the week that brought us the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, York Musical Society’s Saturday concert programme was crafted to both reflect on the tragedy of war and express hope for a peaceful future.

The concert opened with Ralph Vaughan Williams’ timely Dona Nobis Pacem with reduced orchestral score. Some spine-tingling moments in the introductory Agnus Dei were owed largely to the expertly balanced choir. In the captivating Beat! Beat! Drums!, the violin counter-melodies were dexterously woven alongside Alistair Ollerenshaw’s velvety baritone, and much-loved YMS musical director David Pipe coaxed a suitably telling performance of the work’s final, redolent plea for peace.

The evening also included a nicely paced, if slightly uniform rendering of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, once famously described as the “saddest music ever written”. The small size of the orchestra left some intonation issues in the upper strings exposed, but this was nevertheless an emotive performance.

The choir returned in impressive form for an earnest rendering of John Rutter’s Requiem. There was some untidy counterpoint in the opening Requiem Aeternam, but otherwise, they were persistently well balanced and armed with good intonation and phrasing. This was particularly evident during the darker moments of the Agnus Dei, for which the Minster proved a generous host.

Soprano Jenny Stafford displayed remarkable control at the top of her range in Pie Jesu and Lux Aeterna, and there were also several opportunities for orchestra members to relish in the score’s well-crafted solos.

This evocative concert provided a most welcome opportunity for reflection after the week’s centenary events. A testament to YMS’s unfaltering yet perceptive musical conviction.

Review by Charlotte Armstrong

Review of St Matthew Passion, 24th March 2018

Review: York Musical Society, St Matthew Passion, York Minster, March 24

from York Press 28 March 2018

It is hard to think of what might surpass J.S. Bach’s St Matthew Passion (1727) as the greatest of all sacred musical works for the Christian church. Bach never wrote an opera, but he did dramatic music nevertheless.

With a libretto by Picander (Christian Friedrich Henrici), the St Matthew Passion is, first, a fast-moving narrative of Jesus’s arrest, trial and execution and, second, a reflective piece in which soloists comment on the emotional and spiritual significance of that narrative.

It is demanding for all musicians involved: double orchestra, full choir, separate treble choir, four soloists and separate Evangelist and Jesus. Bach, guided by his devout Lutheran faith, wrote Jesus’s part in red ink in the manuscript and his recitatives are always accompanied not only by continuo but by a halo of strings.

The overall architecture of the piece was persuasively presented. Under principal conductor David Pipe, YMS made a moving and convincing spiritual drama of this challenging work, singing in English translation. Bach’s expansive opening chorus (“Come ye daughters, share my wailing”) was beautifully rendered with a Via Dolorosa tread, as was the equally demanding final chorus with its bitter-sweet discordant decorations.

Bach ends the St Matthew Passion, like the earlier St John Passion (1724), at Jesus’s death, not with his resurrection: the composer knew that much of the best in music comes from sorrow, not from triumph. But David Pipe managed to find exactly the right level of reassurance in that last chorus – “Sleep thou sweetly” – so that it did not feel like the end of the story.

Excellent obbligato playing gave the reflective arias emotional coherence and musical shape (Orchestra 2 was even more assured in the strings than Orchestra 1).

Paul Smy was an elegant, if understated Evangelist and Jonathan May a light yet moving Jesus, singing from the pulpit. The best soloist, mezzo soprano Kate Symonds-Joy, brought remarkable colour and intensity to her role, especially in the most moving of all the arias, Have Mercy, My God. The remaining aria soloists were Anita Watson (soprano), Ben Thapa (tenor) and Alex Ashworth (bass).

Pipe controlled the considerable forces required for this Baroque masterpiece with poised authority and with a sense of having fully inhabited the work. YMS is now a choir that impresses each time it performs – and in widely differing repertoire. A memorable evening.

Review by Francis O’Gorman

Summer 2017 update

After our packed Mozart concert at York Minster on 24th June 2017, we are enjoying a well-earned rest over the summer and looking forward to another exciting year. Before rehearsals begin, however, we are fundraising at St Crux, The Shambles, York, on Friday 4th August. Come along for bric-a-brac, books and lots of home-made cakes (for which YMS is well-known!). Please come and support us.

 

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