YMS at CASTLE HOWARD PROMS

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.

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

Review of our recent ‘Celebrate Christmas’ concert.

York Press Review: York Musical Society, Celebrate Christmas,

St Lawrence’s Parish Church, York, December 9th 2017.

A large audience gathered last Saturday afternoon to enjoy York Musical Society’s Christmas concert that included extracts from Messiah and a reworking by conductor Richard Shephard of Corelli’s Christmas concerto for accompanied voices.

Around these two works were placed carols for the choir and seasonal numbers arranged for brass quintet or organ. The brass bonbons were neatly executed by the York Brass Quintet, with some particularly deft tuba work.

The choir’s usual conductor, David Pipe, was on the church’s electronic organ for the afternoon and gave us versions of Walking In The Air and Leroy Anderson’s ever-popular Sleigh Ride: here Pipe registered the music with great wit, using the tremulant to telling effect. He also accompanied the choir with sensitivity throughout the programme.

York Musical Society is a large choir that has a good balance between the four voice parts and a pleasing unanimity in its vocal delivery. The excerpts from Messiah were sung carefully and well, benefiting, no doubt, from the relatively stately speeds at which they were taken. Diction was clear, but perhaps a greater sense of joy and excitement from both choir and tenor soloist might have brought these wonderful Christmas words more vividly to life.

The Shephard-Corelli concerto is a delightful conceit: setting the final Pastorale to the words of Angels From The Realms Of Glory is an especially inspired decision, but the whole sequence of movements was evidently relished by the singers. Among the carols, Away In A Manger (to the minor key Normandy tune) showed off the ladies’ voices, both in the sopranos’ phrasing of the melody and in the altos’ evident enjoyment of their momentary clashing notes.

A lovely blend from the men came to the fore in Willcocks’ ebullient arrangement of the Sussex Carol. The audience joined in with Hark The Herald and after the final choral Christmas greetings we went out into the gloaming inwardly warmed and uplifted.
Review by Alasdair Jamieson

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.

Review – Simple Gifts York Barbican 28th October 2017

Review: York Musical Society Choir & Orchestra; York Barbican, October 28
Martin Dreyer
Baritone John Holland-Avery

THERE’S nothing like a good wallow in folk music. Those songs and dances that are in our blood need to be allowed to surface occasionally. So last Saturday’s programme of Vaughan Williams, Holst and Rutter, with some chirpy Americana from Copland for good measure, was just what the doctor ordered.

After more than a century of struggling with York Minster’s slippery acoustic, York Musical Society (YMS) has now appeared twice at the Barbican. Let us hope the move becomes permanent, large sacred works aside. Sightlines, acoustic, warmth, comfort, refreshments are all vastly better there. It lacks only an organ.

Both choir and orchestra sounded more relaxed here. Weighing in at exactly 100 voices, the choir showed a new level of commitment, spurred by David Pipe’s decisive baton. Words were better projected, too. Only in some mildly dicey sections of three of Holst’s Hymns from the Rig Veda did diction falter. The early sense of mystery yielded to a beautifully lyrical vision of paradise; its finale was underwhelming but the brass fanfare compensated brilliantly.

The evening, honouring Francis Jackson’s 100th birthday, opened briskly with Vaughan Williams’ English Folk Song Suite and later reverted to his Fantasia on Greensleeves, in which flute and harp solos were succulent. John Holland-Avery brought a witty baritone to the Copland arrangements.

Deft mood changes marked Rutter’s cycle The Sprig Of Thyme, where The Willow Tree and Afton Water were especially poignant, with wry touches throughout from the woodwind principals.

Simple Gifts Review

Dr Francis Jackson attended our concert dedicated to his 100th birthday celebrations. He is shown here with David Pipe and Richard Shephard. 

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.

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