A Vision of Albion

Vaughan Williams and the soul of English music

November 19 @ 4:00 pm 5:15 pm

Ralph Vaughan Williams

Leeds Minster

Saturday 19 November 4.00pm

This celebration of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ choral music, given in honour of his 150th anniversary, explores some of the colours and sounds of what we now recognize as the greatest and most authentic voice of English music to emerge after the Great War.

The programme encompasses both folksong and some of his most sublime spiritual outpourings.

The concert will last about an hour, after which refreshments will be served.

Vaughan Williams was a man of contradictions, not least as an agnostic with a profound sense and desire for the spiritual. He found his voice as he sought out, preserved and assimilated the folksongs of England, finding in them a simplicity of musical expression a world away from the music of Empire, and then transforming that material into profound high art, capable of speaking to and for a nation in a way his Edwardian predecessors no longer could.

Our programme showcases the influences of Parry and Stanford which he absorbed but gradually left behind.  It includes some of his folksong arrangements, and some of his finest spiritual music – the Mass in G Minor, first performed 100 years ago almost to the day, and the anthem O God our help in ages past.

The full details of the programme will be announced shortly

St Peter’s Singers

Alexander Woodrow Director

£12 (Concessions £10)

Leeds Minster

Leeds Minster, 2-6 Kirkgate
Leeds, W. Yorks LS2 7DJ United Kingdom
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View Venue Website

Summer delights 2022

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We were delighted to welcome so many of you to our presentation of Music for Good Friday, which received good reviews. It is always good to see friends and familiar faces, but it was also very pleasing to see and meet people for whom this was their first choral concert or their first concert at Leeds Minster. We hope you enjoyed it ! Judging by the feedback, both music and surroundings contributed to a new and at times very moving experience. We hope you will come again! 

We’re pleased now to announce details of the two concerts we will be giving this summer: a Platinum Jubilee recital on June 11 at Leeds Minster, and a trip out of town to St Cuthbert’s church in Pateley Bridge on July 9. You can book for both of them on-line now.

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I was glad

Music to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee

Leeds Minster
Saturday 11 June 2022 7.30pm

The music for this Jubilee recital is drawn mostly from Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation in 1953, including well-known classics such as Handel’s Zadok the Priest and Parry’s I was glad. The short anthem Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace by SS Wesley, once organist of Leeds Minster is part of the mix, along with movements from Vaughan WIlliams’ Mass in G Minor in this his 150th Anniversary.

The programme looks back briefly, as did the Coronation, to the music of Queen Elizabeth I, and forwards to the current day with a composition by the late Francis Jackson from the 2011 Choirbook for the Queen, and a work by Judith Weir, the current Master of the Queen’s Music (pictured above).

Shaun Turnbull plays the organ and Alex Woodrow directs.

The concert will be followed by a chance to meet members of the choir and other music lovers over a complimentary glass of wine or juice.

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A Choral Fancy

Musical delights for a Summer Evening

Saturday 9 July 2022 7.30pm
St Cuthbert’s Church, Pateley Bridge

nr Harrogate, HG3 5LQ

The programme for this recital incorporates a delightful mix of styles and sounds. There’s a nod to the Queen’s Jubilee with two of Handel’s Coronation Anthems and Parry’s I was glad, together with three of his beautiful Songs of Farewell. Rheinberger’s Abendlied (‘Evening hymn’) brings a more reflective mood, while James Macmillan’s Lux aeterna allows us to briefly revisit our Songs of Solace programme from last October, and remember those lost in the pandemic.

Two of Poulenc’s short Motets for a time of penitience take us briefly to the very different sound world of Twentieth century French spiritual music, before we switch to a more relaxed set of secular part songs, including the well-known Linden Lea by Vaughan Williams and Stanford’s gorgeous The Blue Bird. This group finishes with Weaver bird, a short and humorous composition by our in-house duo poet Hannah Stone and composer Matthew Oglesby.

We finish, fittingly for a choir with our name, with two settings of the text Tu es Petrus (You are Peter), one by the 16th century master Palestrina and so one of the earliest known settings, and the other composed for our 40th anniversary in 2017 by Philip Moore, formerly Organist of York Minster.

Anthony Gray plays the organ and Alex Woodrow directs.

Tickets (£10) will be available at the door or on-line.
The concert starts at 7.30pm and the bar will be open from 7.00pm

Dolorosa

Music for Good Friday

Leeds Minster

Good Friday, 15 April, 7.00pm

A programme of beautiful and deeply expressive Italian music composed for the time when the Christian church commemorates the death of Christ.

Don’t miss this chance to hear Allegri’s famous Miserere live!

Tickets £15, Concessions £12, (Free FTE / Under-18)

Approximate duration 75 minutes

Programme

Crucifixus est pro nobis Antonio Lotti
Miserere meiFrancesco Scarlatti
Miserere mei Gregorio Allegri
Stabat Mater dolorosa Domenico Scarlatti

Sally Ladds cello

Graham Thorpe organ

St Peter’s Singers

Alexander Woodrow director

Our ‘Music for Good Friday’ series resumes after the pandemic with a programme of Italian music including Allegri’s famous Miserere.

The Miserere is a setting of Psalm 51 – ‘Have mercy upon me O God after thy great goodness’. Although it properly belongs to the previous day, its penitential nature makes it an entirely suitable response to the crucifixion of Christ. So the programme includes both the plainchant setting by Allegri and Francesco Scarlatti’s more elaborate version from the Baroque age.

The medieval poem Stabat Mater Dolorosa (‘The grieving mother stood weeping while her son hung on the cross’) has been set to music countless times. This setting, by Domenico Scarlatti, exploits all the richness of expression afforded by ten vocal parts and is one of the classics of the baroque period.

The programme is completed by Antonio Lotti’s famous 8-part setting of the text Crucifixus est prop nobis (‘He was crucified for us’).

Leeds Minster – access

Public parking is available on the street and in the car park opposite the Palace Hotel at the eastern end of Leeds Minster. There is also a large NCP car park next to Leeds Markets on the other side of the railway, and the John Lewis carpark slightly further away.

April 15 @ 7:00 pm 8:15 pm

Italian Renaissance and Baroque music for Good Friday

Leeds Minster

Leeds Minster, 2-6 Kirkgate
Leeds, W. Yorks LS2 7DJ United Kingdom
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Music for Good Friday 2022

Italian Music for Passiontide

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We look forward with great excitement to our presentation of Music for Good Friday, always one of the high points of our calendar, and one we’ve had to forgo for the last two years.

This year we present a programme of absolutely gorgeous music for Passiontide by Italian composers. Gregorio Allegri’s famous Miserere is included, as well as Antonio Lotti’s well-known Crucifixus est pro nobis in 8 parts.

But the real stars of this programme are settings of the Miserere (Psalm 51) and the 13th century latin poem Stabat Mater Dolorosa by Francesco and Domenico Scarlatti respectively. They were uncle and nephew, Francesco being the younger brother of the more famous Alessandro, who was Domenico’s father. They lived at the height of the Baroque period, Domenico being born in 1685, the same year as Handel and JS Bach.

Both these works will sound familiar to lovers of Vivaldi’s Gloria, but with different textures providing additional variety to the ear. Francesco’s Miserere exploits different combinations of soloists, expertly sung by members of the choir, mixed in between full choral movements.

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Domenico writes for 10 vocal parts and continuo, demanding considerable virtuosity at times, but achieving a richness and sonority rarely matched in the baroque era.

He rises superbly to the challenge of setting words that express so eloquently not just the sorrow of Jesus’ mother Mary as she watches her son dying a cruel death, but also the sorrow of any other compassionate human being reflecting on such events. As so often, the music reaches into places that the words, especially the latin ones, don’t necessarily reach.

They are very fine works, deserving of greater exposure. This is a rare chance to hear them live.

The music starts at 7.00pm on Good Friday 15 April 2022 in Leeds Minster, and will last about 75 minutes.

Why not book now ?

Dr Francis Jackson – RIP

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Members of St Peter’s Singers wish to join the many other voices in saluting Dr Francis Jackson CBE, who has died aged 104.

Like many other choirs, St Peter’s Singers were fortunate and privileged to work with him numerous times and count him as a friend of the choir.

Much has already been written about this charming and disarmingly modest man, and about a long life well-lived. Much reference has been made to his towering contribution to choral and organ music, and to his genius as an organist. There are many undocumented and often humorous stories about him, too, but this brief post just recalls some of our encounters with ‘FJ’, also sometimes known as ‘The Good Doctor’.

Daniel in Babylon

Our collaboration began in 1987 when, under Dr Lindley’s enterprising leadership, we performed Daniel in Babylon (composed in 1962) in Leeds Parish Church (now Leeds Minster). Daniel in Babylon was the first of two monodramas written in collaboration with the actor and librettist John Stuart Anderson. John Stuart took the leading spoken part with Francis playing the organ.  We gave a second performance in Leeds Town Hall the following year. 1997 saw a further performance at Leeds Parish Church, and a recording followed in 1998 for Amphion Recordings with FJ at the console.

A Time of Fire

St Peter’s Singers followed Daniel with a number of performances of a second monodrama from the same collaboration, A Time of Fire (1967) – originally called Tyndale’s Dream. In some ways this piece demonstrated a rather more successful and imaginative engagement by Anderson with the drama of his subject matter – the turbulent life and times, and the grim death, of William Tyndale, one of the first translators of the Bible into the English vernacular.

FJ responded with some truly dramatic writing – an organ score pulsating with energy, tension and alarm; a range of vividly, and at times playfully, characterised cameo roles for choir soloists that capture both the wit and the pathos of Anderson’s vivid text. The choir acts as the sharp-eyed, occasionally sarcastic but always empathetic turba, or crowd of onlookers. The work concludes with an unforgettably touching, elegiac chorale of simple, yet truly haunting beauty for unaccompanied chorus that ends as soprano and alto soloists depart into the distance singing ‘The ploughboy who follows his team down the furrow shall sing as he goes the psalms of King David…’.

We performed this wonderful work in Leeds Parish Church in 1989 and 1991 with Matthew Beetschen on the organ, and again in 1992 for a concert in honour of FJ’s 75th Birthday with Carleton Etherington playing, with John Stuart Anderson in the speaking role on each occasion. We recorded the work in 1999 with FJ playing. Further performances followed at Leeds Minster and then Ely Cathedral in 2004 and Derby Cathedral in 2005 with Dr Richard Rastall delivering the spoken text and Jonathan Lilley playing. This work would grace (and enliven!) any conference on the Reformation or the history of the Bible in the UK, but can appeal to a much wider audience as it brings to life this colourful period in our history.

Commission

The success of this collaboration with Dr Jackson emboldened Dr Lindley to commission a work from him for the choir’s 20th anniversary in 1997, and he responded with a fine setting of the Stabat Mater for choir, organ and baritone solo. This received its first performance in Leeds Parish Church in that year, with subsequent performances there, at Giggleswick School and at St Matthew’s, Chapel Allerton. Two performances followed under FJ’s direction, with Simon Lindley at the organ, as part of recitals given in York Minster in 2004 and 2008. (Entitled ‘The Composers conduct’ and given in honour of Dr Lindley’s 60th birthday, the latter recital also included Philip Moore conducting his Three Prayers of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Donald Hunt conducting his Hymnus Paschalis – that was some evening, that was…)

Evening Hymn

The earlier recital at York Minster was given in the nave, and featured both the Stabat Mater and Dr Jackson’s magnificent Evening Hymn (1970). This unaccompanied setting of a poem by Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682) is quite unlike most of Dr Jackson’s choral music – the characteristic angular counterpoint being replaced by vertical, translucent chording full of challenging dissonance, but a huge thrill to sing in a big acoustic such as that of York Minster.

Building on the witty text’s wordplay exploring the possible likeness of sleep and death, this is surely one of the most successful contemporary musical attempts on this scale to look death in the eye through the lens of hope. It is challenging to sing, which accounts for it being relatively unknown, but we included it in our 2014 CD One Equal Music. It is very much in our minds at this time, as we send our sincerest and heartfelt condolences to Francis’ family.

St Peter’s Singers recorded a 2 CD set of Daniel in Babylon [PHI CD 145] and A Time of Fire [PHI CD 146] – details are available on request.

Hear The Angels Sing

Christmas Greetings from St Peter’s Singers!

This message comes with our warmest wishes of goodwill, comfort and joy to you as Christmas approaches. We hope most sincerely that you are able to celebrate it this year as you would wish.

For many of us, Christmas would not be Christmas without hearing a choir singing carols and other beautiful seasonal music. This important chance to remind ourselves what really matters was denied us all last year. Like many other aspects of the pandemic, we have no wish to repeat that grim experience.

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So St Peter’s Singers will be giving a festive concert of carols and other heavenly music at Leeds Minster on Friday 17 December at 7.30pm.

A glass of wine or juice will be served in the interval.

Why not take this opportunity leave behind the noise for a short while and hear the angels sing!

The concert will finish by 9pm

The programme

Happily, touching base with this Christmas tradition is not an exercise in pure nostalgia. Composers of today continually find new and often captivating things to say. And so this treasure trove, liberally stocked with music from a rich and ancient tradition, is continually being renewed. Our programme will feature some of the better works composed in recent times mixed with traditional carols and well-known arrangements.

This will be a feast. Popular arrangements of traditional English carols such The Holly and the Ivy, The Sussex Carol, and We wish you a Merry Christmas, will join with with Edgar Pettman’s deceptively simple arrangements of two traditional Basque carols.

These will be complemented by John Rutter’s Dormi Jesu, John Tavener’s The Lamb, Will Todd’s My Lord has come, James MacMillan’s O Radiant Dawn, and Morten Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium, all recent works by contemporary composers and stunningly beautiful in their different ways. There will be carols for everyone to sing, and more besides. Alex Woodrow directs, with David Houlder at the organ.

Covid precautions

From a Covid security perspective, Leeds Minster is a large, airy and well-ventilated building with plenty of seating in which you can space out, while the choir will be singing at the far (East) end of the church. It is now Government policy to require the wearing of masks indoors. And to make the event as safe as possible for everybody, we would also suggest taking a lateral flow test before coming if you can.

We look forward very much to welcoming you.

Please note: should Government advice on Covid-19 force us to cancel the concert, we will fully refund the price of purchased tickets.

Hallelujah ! Messiah returns

Messiah returns

Hallelujah – Messiah returns !

Handel’s Messiah returns to Leeds after an unwelcome and enforced absence.

Leeds Minster

Saturday 27 November 2021 7.30pm

Come and hear this glorious, life-affirming music!

Tickets £15, £12 concessions, Free FTE / Under-18s all to include a glass of wine or juice and a free programme

Handel’s Messiah has been a favourite of Yorkshire audiences and choirs for many years, and no wonder. The music and texts exude a warm and sympathetic glow and somehow draw our attention above all else to the humanity of its subject. Feel-good music, that has been sorely missed.

Alex Woodrow directs St Peter’s Singers and a stellar lineup of (mostly) young soloists. Tom Moore accompanies on the Minster’s fabulous Harrison organ.

St Peter’s Singers are proud to present the first major performance of the work in Leeds since the pandemic started. What better way is there to start your preparations for Christmas ?

Leeds Minster – access and Covid security

Leeds Minster is a large and seemingly well-ventilated building, with sufficient room for you to space out as you wish. We welcome everyone to this concert, and make a simple request, in line with the Minster’s policy, that you respect other members of the audience by wearing a face-covering when entering and leaving the building.

Public parking is available on the street and in the car park opposite the Palace Hotel at the eastern end of Leeds Minster. There is also a large NCP car park next to Leeds Markets on the other side of the railway, and the John Lewis carpark slightly further away.

 

Hallelujah !

Hallelujah!

A change of mood

It was heartening to see so many people at our recent recital Songs of Solace. We felt we had maybe struck a chord with a programme of music that acknowledged the grief and loss brought by the pandemic. Now we feel that, although the pandemic is far from over, a Hallelujah or two are in order!

So it is a delight to switch moods, and to celebrate the return of live music-making. We do so by performing one of the greatest choral works of all time, Handel’s Messiah.

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This extraordinary oratorio, with its iconic Hallelujah chorus, its history of fund-raising for charity, and its frequent performance by countless choral societies, has reached further into the national consciousness than any other.

Messiah resonates at almost any point in the year. But it sits firmly in the minds of many as integral to their annual preparations for Christmas.

The opening invocation ‘Comfort ye’ – never more welcome than now – seems to light the Advent candle in the winter darkness more poignantly than one could possibly imagine.

Humanity

The work covers not just the foretelling of the coming of Christ and his birth. It also tells of his Suffering and Death, his Resurrection and Ascension – the full, and rather remarkable, life-cycle!

Yet despite all this, the overwhelming feeling that this amazing music leaves us with is of the humanity of its subject – once a baby, and then ‘a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief’. This is emotionally intelligent, empathetic music, composed by someone who understood the human condition.

Performance details

This performance is given with organ, rather than orchestral, accompaniment. At the time of planning we were unable to predict whether conditions would allow space for an orchestra. We feel this has proved a wise decision. We hope that on this occasion you will enjoy hearing the glory of the Minster’s famous Harrison & Harrison organ deployed on all the familiar arias and choruses. We’re grateful to Tom Moore for agreeing to undertake this herculean task.

Our soloists – Ruby Hendry, Esther Colman, Christopher Trenholme and Quentin Brown – and St Peter’s Singers are directed by Alex Woodrow.

Tickets

We very much hope to welcome you to this concert. Tickets are available below or at the door: £15, Concessions £12, (Free FTE / Under-18). A glass of wine or juice and a free programme is included in the price.

Leeds Minster is a seemingly well-ventilated (!) and spacious building allowing you to space out if you wish. We simply request that, in line with its policy, you wear a face-covering on entering and leaving the building.

Learn more

Songs of Solace

Come and enjoy some space and time for reflection as St Peter’s Singers sing exquisite music by Purcell, Croft, Greene, Harris, Howells and MacMillan. This recital is given in remembrance of those who died during the pandemic. Admission is free (retiring collection).

Find out more

Open rehearsal

We’re delighted to announce our Open Rehearsal on Sunday 13 October 7.30pm at Leeds Minster LS2 7DJ, when we look to welcome enthusiastic singers along who might be interested in joining.

If you enjoy singing in choirs or are looking to join a good choir where your skills can flourish and develop, St Peter’s Singers could be just the choir for you and our open rehearsal on 13 October would be a great opportunity to find out!

Registration is from 7.15pm, and the rehearsal starts at 7.30pm, lasting till 9.15 pm. Just come to the choir vestry door (the one nearest to the Palace Hotel on the Kirkgate side of the Minster).

We will be rehearsing some of the music for our upcoming Remembrance Day concert. Copies will be provided for you on arrival, and if you feel afterwards that this is your thing, there will be the opportunity to take part in that concert.

Our normal process if you want to join is for you to attend for a number of weeks, singing at rehearsals and concerts, and then there is a simple audition to confirm your membership. So if you can’t be with us on 13 October, just email our choir secretary and make arrangements to start another week.