Carols with a Yorkshire twist

There will be Carols with a Yorkshire twist at Bolton Abbey on Saturday afternoon.

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Christmas is coming – we’re well into Advent now – and following our highly successful performance of Bach, Vaughan Williams and Handel at Fulneck last Saturday, it’s time for something simpler and more relaxing.

So why not join us for some Carols and Seasonal Music for Christmas in the serenity of Bolton Priory this Saturday afternoon 14 December at 3.30 pm ?

Deliberately timed to coincide with calm of the winter dusk, and to fit in between either a country walk or a city dash and the evening’s social buzz, this will be offering an oasis of calm, and a chance to catch up with the things that matter most.

Alongside many well-known carols from all over the world that have come to characterise the best of Christmas, there will also be a strong Yorkshire twist, with a number of carols written by composers with Yorkshire connections, and a special Yorkshire surprise to finish with!

Jan Holdstock

Not least among these are Jan Holdstock’s popular ‘Tell out the news’ – remembered fondly by countless grown-up children. We will also be singing her ‘Donkey Carol’ – a carol with a kick, if ever there was one!

We remember Jan with great fondness both for her contribution to our musical family and for the joy she brought to so many through her charming, humorous and sophisticated music for children, who will be welcome to join us. Please bring them with you!

There will be opportunities for everyone to fill their lungs and join in.

Admission is free and there will be a retiring collection in aid of Bolton Priory. Please come and bring your friends !

Music for Christmas – Simon Lindley writes

St Peter’s Singers perform a programme of festive music for Christmas and Advent at Fulneck on 7 December. Simon Lindley, our director of music, shares some characteristic insights:

JS Bach: Cantata 30 ‘Freue dich, erloste Schar

Johann Sebastian Bach 750x495 - Music for Christmas - Simon Lindley writes

In common with the component six cantatas of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, the music of his Cantata 30 began life as with a secular, rather than a sacred, verbal text. Like the third element of the Christmas Oratorio its opening chorus is reprised at the end, a characteristic shared with the so-called Ascension Oratorio [Praise our God who reigns in heaven] sung at the very first concert given by St Peter’s Singers way back in the Summer of 1977.

The work begins with a magnificent, energised chorus with full orchestra. This is succeeded by a brief bass recitative leading into the first of two finely festal arias for bass. At the heart of the work is an exquisite aria for solo alto underpinned by glorious sonorities for strings, topped by a solo flute. This is one of its creator’s splendid concepts with a gently dance-like momentum that seems to carry the listener to the gate of heaven itself. A hymn verse of the chorale Freu dich Sehr closes the first half of the work. A second bass recitative and aria follows in what has become known as the gallant style of the 1730s. The big rolling arpeggios that accompany the soprano aria not only illustrate the running of the sinner but also the smoke rising from the altars in the tents of Kedar . There is no final chorale. The piece concludes with a triumphant reprise of the opening.

Devised for the midsummer day feast of the Nativity of St John Baptist, the text and style of Cantata 30 make it particularly apt for the season of Advent in which the Baptist is so very intimately concerned.

R Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on Christmas Carols

ralphvaughanwilliams - Music for Christmas - Simon Lindley writes

First heard at the 1912 Hereford Three Choirs’ Festival, the evergreen Fantasia on Christmas Carols is one of Vaughan Williams’ most characteristic works. Strongly featured are the traditional carols Come, all you worthy gentlemen and the famous “Sussex Carol” – On Christmas night all Christians sing. In just over ten minutes, the composer devises a magical and rapturous sound world of triumphant expectation of raptured utterance. There are memorable solos for ‘cello as well as a baritone soloist that linger long in the memory!

GF Handel: Messiah (Pt I and Hallelujah chorus)

handel - Music for Christmas - Simon Lindley writes

Messiah, a work produced by Handel in 1742 for performance in Dublin at a major charitable endeavour for the relief of the prisoners in the jails of the Irish capital city, is by far the best known of that great composer’s works. The anticipation of the birth of the Saviour, its prophecy and fulfilment, takes up most of Part I and St Peter’s Singers Fulneck performances of that noble musical torso traditionally end with the singing of the final chorus of the work’s second part – the Hallelujah Chorus. Each of the four vocal soloists is closely involved during the course of the 21 numbers from part one given at Fulneck at this time of year as is the choir.

During the course of the last decade of his long professional life, Handel arranged annual performances of Messiah for the support of Thomas Coram’s Foundling Hospital at the heart of London. These presentations within the, now long-gone, chapel of the Foundling Hospital, give us much written evidence of the Handel’s performing practice gleaned from the details of the account books that survive to posterity.

Dr Simon Lindley on Duruflé’s Requiem

Remembrance Concert: St Chad's Far Headingley

St Peter’s Singers will be performing Maurice Duruflé’s gorgeous Requiem as part of their Remembrance Concert For the Fallen at St Chad’s, Far Headingley on Sunday 10 November at 3.00pm.

Director of Music, Dr Simon Lindley, writes:

Maurice Duruflé followed his teacher, Paul Dukas, in exercising a profound degree of self-criticism resulting in only a very small number of works surviving.

Of these, the glorious setting of the Requiem – founded entirely upon traditional ancient Plainchant melodies – is by far the most substantial. Its luminosity of expression and profound strength of purpose combine to make it one of the most powerful 20th century sacred choral utterances.

Durufl̩ follows Faur̩ in omitting all but the very brief final stanza of the lengthy Dies irae placed between Kyrie and the Offertory of the traditional mass for the dead. He also, like Faur̩ , includes the final In Paradisum antiphon originally sung at the graveside. Pie Jesu is all that remains from Dies irae Рbut what a very powerful setting it is, enhanced by a glorious solo part for cello.

The melodic plainchant lines are wonderfully accompanied by vivid and even exotic harmonies. The composer’s original score, as heard at St Chad’s, was for organ alone. Later versions followed for full orchestra and, finally – we believe the composer’s favourite – for strings, trumpets and organ as well as timpani. The work requires a choir capable of the profoundest expression and possessed of an outstanding technique, for much is demanded from the score.

The piece unfolds from a fluent Introit with the chant mainly allotted to lower voices, topped by vocalised soprano and alto parts. Kyrie that follows is polyphonic and builds to a vast plea for mercy. The Offertory, Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei continue the relentless, even ecstatic, progress of the piece. Lux aeterna provides exquisite relief, the chant intoned by sopranos with rich harmony vocalised below. The very final movement, again led by sopranos, is slow and sustained, based in the favourite tonality of Olivier Messiaen, the brightest key of all – F sharp major.

The Dream of Gerontius

We were hugely privileged to take part in the most moving performance of Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius on 1 June. Huge thanks to Simon Wright for the invitation, and for directing the performance with such assurance, finesse and feel for the music. Thanks also to the Leeds Festival Chorus, the Leeds Philharmonic Chorus , the Hallé Orchestra and the stellar soloists Barry Banks, Dame Sarah Connolly and David Soar for making it an evening to remember. We had a ball ! Wonderful that this amazing work can still fill Leeds Town Hall in 2019!