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YMS News

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.



York Musical Society enjoying the experience of singing with Lesley Garrett, Geraint Dodd, directed by Stephen Bell and accompanied by the London Gala Orchestra.

We think that was our biggest audience so far of between 5 and 6 thousand people.

photo by Allan Harris.

November 2017

After the excitement of our recent concert at York Barbican we are straight back into rehearsals for our Christmas concert. This will be held at the St Lawrence Parish Church on Saturday the 9th of December at 4pm. A wonderful way to get you in the Christmas mood.

September 2017

We are now taking bookings for the ever popular Choral Workshop which is themed around Famous Operatic Choruses.

There is a section under the Concerts and Events tab, or go straight to the Eventbrite booking page via this link.

Book early as this is a very popular event and often sells out.

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.


 Date   19 October 2016

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.


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 PREVIEW: Bach St Matthew Passion

YORK MUSICAL SOCIETY will perform Bach’s St Matthew Passion in York Minster on March 9 at 7.30pm.

“It’s a very important and also demanding work to sing and considered to be one of Bach’s grandest works,” says conductor David Pipe.

“Our concert will be the opening event of York Minster’s Festival of the Passions and promises to be a wonderful evening.”

The York Musical Society Chorus and Orchestra will be joined by soloists Paul Smy, Julian Tovey, Laurie Ashworth, Juliette Pochin, Jo Cornwell and Jon Saunders and the Minster choristers.

Tickets are available at the Minster box office during opening hours, online at and by phone on 0844 9390015.


Reproduced by kind permission of the The Press.