Music for Good Friday 2020

How desolate lies the city, that was full of people…

When we met for the last time before the Coronavirus lockdown, it was already clear that we would not be able to give our traditional presentation of Music for Good Friday. Disappointingly, this meant postponing our keenly and widely anticipated second performance of Matthew Oglesby’s superb Requiem, Penthos. The mood was sombre, with a significant number of our members already choosing to stay at home. So for an hour we just sang music for fun.

However, the Good Friday programme was also due to include a fine motet which we had sung at the first performance of Penthos, and which had special resonances for Good Friday this year: Rudolf Mauersberger’s Wie liegt die Stadt so wüst (‘How desolate lies the city’).

75 years ago, in February 1945, the Allies attacked and destroyed Dresden in a ferocious firebomb raid, timed for the end of Shrove Tuesday, and the traditional Carnival. The children, temporarily relieved of the firewatch duty they now habitually undertook in the absence of the menfolk, were out and about. Mauersberger, then Kantor at the Kreuzkirche, lost eleven of his choristers that evening, as the church, school and archives, together with most of the city were incinerated and reduced to rubble.

Six weeks later, over the Easter weekend that followed, he composed the motet Wie liegt die Stadt so wüst, setting an astringent selection of verses from The Lamentation of Jeremiah so terse and disjointed that it at once conveys the mute speechlessness of trauma while allowing the music to delve deep into that darkness which speech cannot reach. It was first performed the following August, at the first service conducted in the ruins of the Kreuzkirche, but only achieved popularity in Germany in the 1960s, as the next generation of Germans reached adulthood.

With all this in mind, as our last act of singing together before entering this modern period of darkness, we went into Leeds Minster and despite our diminished numbers, sang this wonderful work to an empty church. This is a recording of that occasion, which we offer, ‘warts and all’, in place of the live performance. We hope that it resonates for you as it did for us, while also lending some perspective on our current troubles, whether you are listening this Good Friday or on another day, and we look forward to the day when we can sing it to you live.

Lunchtime choral music in Leeds – Elgar, Britten and Moore

If you have an hour free in the middle of the day next Monday 17 February you could drop in to Leeds Town Hall and catch St Peter’s Singers recital. A wonderfully varied programme of English Cathedral Music by Elgar, Britten and Moore awaits to delight your senses! Admission is free.

Philip moore - Lunchtime choral music in Leeds - Elgar, Britten and Moore

Philip Moore

The concert opens with music by Philip Moore, formerly Organist and Master of the Music at York Minster. His lively and robust setting of Tu es Petrus (‘You are Peter’), commissioned and first sung by St Peter’s Singers in 2018, sets a dynamic tone. ‘All wisdom cometh from the Lord ‘, which follows, provides a profound contrast and culminates in a moment of the most intense and spiritual tranquility.

Edward Elgar - Lunchtime choral music in Leeds - Elgar, Britten and Moore

Sir Edward Elgar

Classic Elgar follows on both the grand and the miniature scale, revealing how the composer was as equally at home writing simple works for Catholic liturgy as he was writing grand anthems for the Edwardian Anglican establishment. Ecce sacerdos magnus (‘Behold the great priest‘) and Ave verum corpus (‘Hail true body‘) provide the sorbets between two large-scale settings of Psalms 48 (‘Great is the Lord‘) and 29 (‘Give unto the Lord‘), works which require committed singing and virtuoso organ playing. We are delighted to welcome David Houlder once again to join us, and provide his expert accompaniment.

BenjaminBritten - Lunchtime choral music in Leeds - Elgar, Britten and Moore

Benjamin Britten

The programme concludes with Benjamin Britten’s wonderfully whimsical cantata Rejoice in the Lamb. This fine work, composed in 1943, sets the words of that somewhat troubled and eccentric (or should that be ‘mystic’ ?) poet Christopher Smart. He does so with great insight and warmth, not least the unforgettable section beginning ‘For I will consider my cat Geoffrey…’ The final, restrained Hallelujah recaptures something of the serenity heard earlier in Philip Moore’s work.

Everyone is welcome at this concert, where we hope to see old friends and make new ones!

Elgar, Britten and Moore – find out more about the programme by reading Dr Lindley’s programme notes here.

Carols with a Yorkshire twist

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

BoltonAbbeyAvent2019 729x1024 - Carols with a Yorkshire twist

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!

JanHoldstock1 - Carols with a Yorkshire twist

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 !