Conductors: Alison North, Stephen Williams, Ken Burton
Accompanist: Emma Binns
Choristers: The Lindley Choir, Vocado Vocal Ensemble, The Chapter House Choir, York, Community Choir finale
Reviewer: Nicola Harrison
The Public Reviews Rating:
‘I love to hear a choir. I love the humanity, to see the faces of real people devoting themselves to a piece of music. I like the team work. It makes me feel optimistic about the human race when I see them cooperating like that.’
Paul McCartney (1942+)
In honour of abcd’s 27th Annual Convention we are truly privileged to be a part of this remarkable celebration of choral music from the Renaissance to the present day. The evening features a feast of music including repertoire from John Rutter, Nils Lindberg and arrangers and composers Moses Hogan and Ken Burton. Under the expert direction of conductors North, Williams and Burton the concert flourishes, rising to a magnificent conclusion with the massed community choir finale featuring singers from Yorkshire and further afield who took part in Ken Burton’s workshop.
If choral music is about team work then the challenge is to learn from and experience the skills and techniques employed by Burton to build a magnificent piece of music with potentially inexperienced singers in 3 hours! Following a series of interesting warm-ups which exercise the whole body including the tongue (signing your name at a fixed point) the choir are ready for the rich, sonorous gospel sounds which are carefully put together as building blocks for the finale repertoire. Having mastered the harmonies, Burton uses colour, tone and dynamics to shape the music further. The participants are as prepared as they ever will be, for some, their first ever public performance!
The evening programme begins with The Lindley Choir and an enthusiastic interpretation of Be Joyful. A carefully chosen and varied programme continues with Rutter’s All things bright and beautiful followed by Joshua fight de battle of Jericho providing dynamic and textural contrast. The Lily and the Rose is atmospheric and sensitively interpreted and as the concert progresses the choir seemingly relax, enjoying the harmonies and lyricism of Windsand Dodi Li. Their clarity of diction and balance of harmonic parts is unquestioning and uncompromising. Don’t be anything less provides comedy and the audience enjoy their visual interpretation. We are serenaded with A closing Prayer to finish a remarkable performance.
Just as this is brought to a conclusion, we are drawn to the beautifully executed sounds of a cappella quintet, Vocado Vocal Ensemble. Their modest and serene interpretation of Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day compels us to appreciate the most carefully balanced harmonic fusion. The singers are indeed one voice devoted to a shared passion. I know them all highlights their attention to detail and is beautifully phrased. My funny Valentine exploits the versatility of the quintet as accompanists to soprano soloist, Amanda Sjöberg. ‘Håll mig kvar (Don’t let go) sung in Swedish by mezzo soprano soloist, Malin Gavelin is lyrical, sensitive and poignant in keeping with the meaning of the text. The audience feast on their diverse repertoire through the comical action song Ronja Rövardotter Medley before a subtle interpretation of Blackbird concludes the programme with utmost gentleness and poise.
The Chapter House Choir, York provide another dimension to the evening’s choral extravaganza. Opening with Chant to bring back the wolf accompanied by whoops and urban noise, this contemporary song is sung a cappella paying homage to the period of ‘tone magic’ which seeks to make a connection with the real world. The song attempts to rebuild the parts of nature that have been violated by man. Vidi speciosam in contrast is textural, pure and lyrical. Marriage to my Lady Poverty with text from the poem by Charles Bennett is beautifully sung, its transcendental sound depicting the imagery of union with the natural world. We shall walk through the valley in peace however is the highlight of their performance. Beautifully interpreted and sung without written scores, the choristers present the message from Psalm 23 with much contrast, from serenity to sublimity. No man is an island is dissonant, compelling and haunting and Pseudo-Yoik brings an uplifting end to the repertoire.
As the Community Choir assemble for the grand finale it is difficult not to feel a sense of anticipation for their forthcoming performance. The choir are ‘real people’ from the community, young and old, able and some disabled who have worked as a team and co-operated to produce two heart-felt gospel songs. Under the expert direction of gospel enthusiast, Ken Burton, the choir are launched into the first song, Come and go with me supported by Burton’s excellent pianistic skills. It is of note that the rich, chordal texture produced by his gospel fingers provide the perfect accompaniment to this energetic song. However the evening is brought to a standstill by the closing song, I feel like going on. The choir have clearly remembered to employ the finishing touches of colour, tone and dynamics that make it so special. This moving piece is beautifully shaped and is by far the highlight of the evening.
It was indeed an honour to be part of this choral concert. Every choir added a fresh dimension to the evening. It was a celebration of choral music through the ages where humour, passion and vitality came together to reveal the diverse nature of our humanity.
Tags: abcd, Alison North, Amands Sjöberg, Anton Leanderson-Andréas, Emma Binns, Joel Nilson, Ken Burton, Leeds, Leeds Town Hall, Lukas Gavelin, Malin Gavelin, Stephen Williams, The Chapter House Choir, The Lindley Choir, Vocado Vocal Ensemble, York