The beautiful interior of Giggleswick chapel means that it is always a wonderful setting for concerts and the music created by the vibrant Lancaster Singers certainly lived up to the ambience of the venue. The music in "Across the Pond" included works from America, Canada and Britain and showed a tremendous range and diversity of styles, showcasing not only the talents of the choir as a whole but also providing a spotlight on the chamber choir, individual voices and the tremendous skills of the pianist, Ian Tate who performed a scintillating quartet of piano blues by Aaron Copland.
The programme was an interesting mixture of sacred and secular music, opening with a very striking and relatively modern piece "Jubilate Deo" which allowed the full impact of the eight part choral singing to be experienced. The purity of the tone added to the power of the piece tremendously. There was then a change of mood with three linked pieces: " I beheld her, beautiful as a dove", "She walks in beauty" and "Rise up my love, my fair one". This interesting trio of songs demonstrated admirably the very precise nature of the choir's singing and the wonderful blending of their voices.
There is a Welsh word, hiraeth, for which there is no direct English translation but which is well suited to describe the incredibly atmospheric rendition of many of the songs in this programme. It was there in the acapella version of the America folksong, Shenandoah and in the dying notes of Stanford's "The Bluebird". It is a sense of poignant longing, touched with sadness for something departed and a wistfulness over what never can be; it is the moment when you feel the connection with something - in this case the music - and can't express why or how you are connected.
The range of emotions covered in this concert however was vast, with examples of great jollity in "It was a love and his lass”, a peculiarly eerie lullaby in Whitacre's "Sleep" and a powerfully uplifting hymn of praise in Scholz's "What Wondrous Love is this." A real highlight however was the stunning rendition of Morten Lauridsen's song, "Dirait-on" which gave the audience the opportunity to wonder at the fantastic harmonies created by this outstanding group of singers.
The programme drew to a close with two particularly atmospheric pieces, "Lullaby" by Daniel Elder and "Hush a bye Mountain" best known from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The first was deceptively simple but immensely moving and the second was beguiling with strong solo voices and ending with a dreamlike quality.
And just when you thought it was all over, there was more - in the form of an effervescent medley from "West Side Story" which simply sparkled with life and energy and flowed seamlessly from the fiery wit of "America" through to the achingly beautiful dream of "Somewhere".
11TH JUNE 2016 GIGGLESWICK CONCERT
Review by Allan Evans, Settle Music:
"Lancaster Singers On Saturday 11th June, a sizeable and appreciative audience welcomed The Lancaster Singers on their first visit to Giggleswick Chapel. The choir performed a concert entitled Across the Pond, featuring music from America, Canada and Britain. Director Duncan Lloyd promised something for everyone and he didn't disappoint, presenting a varied and balanced programme of popular and lesser known pieces. From the opening bars of Norman Gilbert's Jubilate Deo the choir filled the space with a glorious sound and demonstrated their versatility by performing pieces either as a full choir (She Walks in Beauty – Mealor and The Bluebird – Stanford) or as a reduced chamber choir (Rise up my love my fair one – Willan and Dirait-on - Lauridsen). With strong and accomplished singers across all sections they executed classical, religious and popular tunes with aplomb and in most instances unaccompanied. Other highlights included Hushabye Mountain (Sherman and Sherman) Sleep (Whitacre) Shenandoah (arranged Erb) and Duncan's own Just as I am.
Adding to the variety, in each half, accompanist Ian Tate took centre stage and played Four Piano Blues by Aaron Copland. And what better way to finish a delightful evening of transatlantic music than with a choral medley from Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story, one of the few occasions during the evening when soloists were used to add highlights to the colour and tone of this popular piece. A thoroughly enjoyable evening in the presence of a very talented and skilful group of singers and musicians and we will certainly be looking out for their future concerts.
- Allan Evans – Settle Music
REVIEW OF CONCERT ON NOVEMBER 21ST 2015
Lancaster Singers / Amici Ensemble St Peter's Cathedral Lancaster 21 November 2015 "LANCASTER SINGERS CONCERT - A CLASS ACT"
A truly fine evening of music was given by the Lancaster Singers and the Amici Ensemble in St Peter's Cathedral on November 21. A programme of music entirely written before 1840 brought a wealth of different styles, textures and choral effects.
The programme began with Guerrero's Duo Seraphim, in which the composer imagined two angels were calling to one another. The choir was split left and right at the sides of the church with a semi-chorus of singers placed in the middle. Strong declamatory singing began the piece, followed by interesting melismatic figures echoing from each side. At the climax of the piece all sections swelled to a thrilling sound in which the audience were treated to music in “über-stereo”.
The choir relocated to the centre of the church for Bach's motet Singet Dem Herrn and from the outset the choir were confident and assured in their delivery. The first section was bright and lively, with soaring soprano lines and demanding coloratura passages sung with seeming ease. The second, slower section contrasted well and was sung sensitively , though the choir's tuning suffered in quieter moments. The third section saw continued rhythmically accurate and energised singing lead to a strong finish, echoing through the cathedral for several seconds.
The Amici ensemble, largely composed of past and present Royal Northern College of Music students, had supported the choir extremely well in both pieces in the concert. They then gave a fine performance of JS Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No.2 in which Violin, Recorder, Oboe and Trumpet soloists were on risers above the orchestra. This was the perfect acoustic for this music and it was an excellent performance all-round, especially the intense second movement. Special mention should be given for Mark Harrison's fine playing of a fiendish trumpet solo.
The second half of the concert brought a pleasant surprise to much of the audience in Hummel's Mass in B Flat. While not an especially well known piece, there were many excellent and varied musical moments reminiscent of Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn. The choir and orchestra performed the piece very well, revelling in the changes between the slow and fast, loud and softer movements. The piece ended strongly with the sound of full choir, orchestra brass and timpani echoing marvellously through the Cathedral's rafters. One felt if Hummel had integrated four soloists into the piece and added an extra movement that this could have become a piece in the standard choral repertory.
Congratulations, therefore, to Duncan Lloyd for assembling this excellent programme and for arranging the Amici ensemble. Furthermore, his conducting has great energy and commitment and he is at all times engaged with his performers. Notably, Duncan Lloyd has developed the Lancaster Singers into a very fine choral ensemble. Throughout the concert the choir sang assuredly, were very well balanced and were a tight ensemble group. Watch out for future concerts from this groups as they will be well worth attending.
- David Cox
REVIEW OF CONCERT ON NOVEMBER 15TH 2014
On Saturday, November 15, at Lancaster University, an impressive concert took place which appropriately reflected the current memorials for the First World War.
The event was also a first in that the Haffner Orchestra joined with the Lancaster Singers to mark this special yet sad time in history.
The combined concert included Brahms' Song of Destiny, Nänie (Song of Lamentation), How Lovely Are Thy Dwellings (from the Requiem) and Haydn's Mass in Time of War.
The musical interpretation, conducted with real expression and passion by Marco Fanti, immediately conveyed the calm but melancholic atmosphere of the Song of Lamentation.
Good balance between the voices and instrumentalists with woodwind and oboe in particular, created some highly emotive and dramatic moments.
In the other pieces by Brahms, again the choir and orchestra worked well together to set the mood of tragedy and loss in times of war.
Particularly poignant moments included the sombre entries of the timpani and striking sudden fortissimo entries in the trumpets in the Brahms Song of Destiny.
Occasionally, the tenors and basses needed to give a little more support to balance the upper voices and add to the dramatic effect.
In the second half, Justin Doyle conducted the joint enterprise in a superb performance of Haydn's Mass in Times of War.
From the outset, this interpretation had pace, sheer musicality and clear direction, moving us through the changing atmosphere of the mass-parts with a religious dignity worthy of the sacred text.
The four vocal soloists: Laurie Ashworth, Sarah Jillian Cox, Christopher Steele and David Rees – Jones enhanced the performance further by their beautifully flowing, clear and expressive melodic lines adding the finishing touch to what was a truly masterly interpretation and rendition by Maestro Justin Doyle, the Haffner Orchestra and the Lancaster Singers.
- Angela Pendlebury, (Lancaster Guardian November 20th 2014)
SUMER IS ICUMEN IN – ASHTON MEMORIAL, LANCASTER – SUNDAY JUNE 15TH 2014
Summer Concert – Ashton Memorial Lancaster ‘Sumer is icumen in' Sun 15th June 2014
This was a splendid evening's entertainment. A choral programme of widely varying style was much appreciated by the audience. The Ashton Memorial is a wonderful setting with hugely reverberating acoustics, diminished for the better by the drapes now attached to the ceilings. The Singers and accompanist Ian Tate excelled themselves with Mavis Fletcher, as Choral Director leading in a confident and vibrant performance.
The opening number ‘Sumer is icumen in' set the tone and the relatively unknown ‘Quid Petis O Fili' by Richard Pygott was followed by three 16th century motets - Morley, Gibbons and Bennet. These were well executed and followed by the contrast of Byrd's and then Mozart's ‘Ave Verum Corpus'. Lotti's ‘Crucifixus' has held an especial place in the hearts of the Singers since they performed it in the beautiful Byzantine ‘Basilica of Saint Vitale' in Ravenna whilst touring Italy in 2011. This evocative eight-part work was beautifully sung as, copying the Ravenna experience, the Singers encircled us, the audience, and filled the Memorial with what I perceived as a ‘waterfall' of sound.
Accompanist Ian Tate demonstrated his considerable talents by playing two Romances composed by Clara Schumann. Ian's performance complemented the choral programme admirably; these pieces were well chosen and beautifully executed.
Prior to the interval we were treated to four compositions of ‘Ave Maria' all from 19th century composers, Clara Schumann, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Edvard Grieg and Sergei Rachmaninov.
The second half was a truly eclectic mix with the ever popular ‘Cantique de Jean Racine' by Fauré and Cesar Frank's ‘Panis Angelicus' contrasting sharply with the a capella rendering of ‘O Nata Lux' by the contemporary American composer Morten Lauridsen.
Two of Vaughan Williams' ‘Five English Folk Songs' led into an unusual madrigal by Robert Pearsall. Set for eight voices, the words of Lay a Garland are taken from an early 17th century play entitled The Maid's Tragedy . Then on to the Edwardian era with Stanford's ‘The Blue Bird' and two delightful pieces by the popular contemporary composer Bob Chilcott: ‘The Lily and the Rose' and ‘In a Golden World'. (The latter was composed by Chilcott for Mavis Fletcher and her husband Len for the occasion of their Golden Wedding Anniversary in 2013).
Sir Arthur Sullivan's ‘The Long Day Closes' brought the evening's music to an end but refreshments provided further opportunities to chat and wallow in the memories of a very successful and enjoyable occasion. Well done Singers!
- David Hopkins
VERDI REQUIEM – BOLTON VICTORIA HALL – NOVEMBER 23RD 2013
In the world of music, the word 'classic' is not thrown around lightly. It is only after having stood the test of time that pieces of music can claim this title. To the audience, classics are enthralling and exciting. They get stuck on ‘repeat' in one's head and call to be heard year after year. To a musician this is also true, but often is enhanced with a dash of terror. After all, precisely because classics are well known, they become even more difficult to perform well.
It is therefore a considerable achievement that the Lancaster Singers' recent concert brought moments of surprise within a familiar classic. In this anniversary year of Verdi's birth, I had already heard one convincing performance of his classic Requiem abroad. Yet in the hands of the massed choir (Prestbury Choral Society, Lancaster Singers and Preston Cecilian Choral Society), Lancashire Sinfonietta, talented soloists and maestro Marco Fanti, I found myself hearing familiar phrases anew.
It would be possible to speak of isolated accomplishments - the choir's excellent sound quality, the orchestra's nimble treatment of fast passages, the soloists' well-blended harmonies (barring a few errant bars). Yet in the end it was the overall affect that most impressed. The first introduction of the ‘dies irae' was powerful and confident, with a tension and energy that made me burst into a wide smile. The ensemble also played with an impressive range of colors, and while still more could have been made of the mournful pp sections, the overall palette was very effective. Maestro Marco Fanti, with his contagious energy, was a confident and vibrant leader.
There were, as in most concerts, a few moments that weren't quite as seamless as intended, but the ensemble never left the audience nervous for long. While I appreciate demonstrations of musical skill, for me music is ultimately about emotional connection and the ability to escape, for a moment, into a new world. Though the musicians assembled in Bolton are not the most technically proficient to have ever performed Verdi's Requiem, their musicianship and emotional investment was well evidenced and made for a thoroughly enjoyable revisiting of this classic.
- Allison Hui
LANCASTER SINGERS – CONCERT IN LANCASTER PRIORY, 23RD MARCH 2013
Conductor : Mavis Fletcher
Organ : Christopher Brayne
Soloists : Elizabeth Humphries; Lucilla Graham; Tom Morss; Stefan Berkieta
The first half of this concert alternated pieces for organ solo with a capella motets by Bruckner. The organ pieces – Three Pieces for Organ by Walton and Sonata No 4 by Mendelssohn – made for sensible programming, though they did little to excite this reviewer. In saying that, however, I must admit to being generally unenthusiastic about much of the organ solo repertoire. The Bruckner Motets – Ave Maria, Christus factus est, Os justi and Locus iste - were well sung, as was to be expected from this experienced choir. I did feel, though, that the choice of speeds made them sound hurried – I would have liked slightly broader tempi giving more space to convey the spirit of these essentially contemplative settings by a deeply religious composer. The parts were well-balanced and even though the bass section sounded a bit under-powered their line was always clearly audible whenever needed.
After the interval the choir was joined by a quartet of young soloists from RNCM to sing Beethoven's C major setting of the Mass. This was a performance which served well the composer's distinctive new approach to the words of the Mass though it was less successful in some of the more demanding fast passages, especially those with high tessitura for the sopranos. I particularly enjoyed the Kyrie section, there were some excellent unison passages and several occasions when the dramatic character of Beethoven's setting came through well. The best passages showed a good forward sense of phrasing (which had been rather less apparent in the Bruckner motets) which gave extra vitality to the music. The organ accompaniment also contributed much to the performance by the use of a great variety of interesting and appropriate registrations. The four soloists were well balanced with each other and with the choir and all acquitted themselves well. I particularly enjoyed the well-rounded tone and legato phrasing from mezzo-soprano Lucilla Graham.
- John Pratt
LANCASTER SINGERS' ‘COME AND SING DAY'
Saturday 13th October 2012 with Marco Fanti
In preparation for their next concert on 17th November 2012 (Duruflé' Requiem at Lancaster Priory) Lancaster Singers held a ‘Come and Sing Day' at the Chaplaincy Centre, Lancaster University.
They were joined by friends from the Preston Cecilian Choral Society, which is also directed by Marco Fanti, and other guests, totalling around 80 singers. The day was spilt into three sessions from 11am to 4pm. with breaks between.
Director Marco Fanti led in his customary charismatic style with exercises to improve range, intonation, expression and diction and then pressed the assembled singers through a detailed work-out of the choral passages in this music. This was demanding work, but very rewarding as singers gained confidence and reached new heights of performance – and, as always under Marco's leadership, it was fun.
Ian Pattinson, who will be organist at the concert in November, accompanied on the piano.
This was a very worthwhile and thoroughly enjoyable event.
- David Hopkins
SUMMER CONCERT - A FEAST OF SONG – ST PAUL'S CHURCH BROOKHOUSE
Sunday 17th June
Choral items Elgar – The Black Knight Faure – Pavanne & Madrigal Smetana – Ceska Pisen & Solo performances of songs by Faure & Kalman (Bibi Heal)
This summer concert was truly a ‘Feast of Song' in which this excellent choir presented a varied programme of unfamiliar works. Throughout this season, the introduction of compositions, new, to a large number of the audience, has been most welcome and one is aware of and grateful for, the extra work this entails. Marco Fanti and Mavis Fletcher as conductors, have done an ambitious and splendid job.
The opening work was a strange and seldom performed early composition by Elgar. There is nothing ‘sunny or summery' about ‘The Black Knight'! In this setting of a German poem, the text of which makes a Shakespearian tragedy look optimistic, the choir conveyed the dark drama with all its variety of mood wonderfully well, especially in the last movement, of what Elgar intended to be, a Choral Symphony. With keyboard accompaniment, there was no orchestra, thereby thwarting his intentions. This may stimulate the listener to look further for the ‘genuine article' but without orchestra it certainly offers a paler version of Elgar's ambitious and rather inexplicable undertaking.
Great credit goes to Helena Morwood whose accompaniment was marvellous in mastering a complex and dramatic score.
The second item of the two works of Faure, again gave us an unfamiliar version of a well known work. ‘Pavanne', not as generally heard, but with chorus added by Faure. The flowing rhythmic patterns and subtleties of tone were excellent as was also the case in the Madrigal, which followed.
Soprano Bibi Heal, accompanied sensitively by Andy Plowman was a joy to hear in songs by Faure and Kalman; amusing, touching and immensely powerful, her engagement with the audience was perfect. This was the thrill of opera at close quarters!
The evening ended with some delightful settings of Bohemian songs by Smetana in which separate sections of the choir provided an exhibition of skill, with one setting for female and one for male voices, sandwiched between two settings in full chorus. The first and third were particularly impressive. Audience and choir clearly shared in the joy that his compatriot Dvorak found in his native style.
This has been a fascinating season. Many thanks to everyone involved.
- Elizabeth Cole, Lancaster
SATURDAY 17TH MARCH 2012, ST PETER'S CATHEDRAL, LANCASTER
Haydn and Mozart Requiems
We attended the Michael Haydn Requiem and Mozart Requiem concert last night [17/3/12] at Lancaster Cathedral. Thank you for an absolutely stunning performance: the Haydn particularly was so moving and superb. It was a pleasure to hear the choir and Lancashire Sinfonietta together and the sound was beautifully balanced.
The soloists were excellent and had wonderful expressive voices for such young performers. We will look out for other performances by the choir!
Thanks and congratulations to all concerned.
- Sarah Jones and Richard Shepherd Lancaster
Review of Concert at St Peter's Cathedral Sat 17th March 2012
Mozart – Requiem
Michael Haydn – Requiem
accompanied by the
This season the Lancaster Singers has presented a series of works that has historical and thereby stylistic cohesion, a journey through mainly religious music from Bach to Mozart, culminating in this excellent performance of the Mozart Requiem. Many of the items performed during this journey may have been unfamiliar to English audiences and singers and I, for one, am grateful for this welcome extension in repertory. Those pieces would of course have been known to and admired by, the contemporary composers of the day.
Two requiems in the season of Lent in the splendid setting of St Peter's Cathedral, might suggest a rather constrained concert experience but in fact this was an evening of grandeur – trumpets and drums in dramatic use, the Singers in fine form, well accompanied by the accomplished Lancashire Sinfonietta led by Sarah Brandwood Spencer and a quartet of excellent young soloists, Katie Lowe soprano, Miranda Westcott mezzo soprano, Tyler Clarke tenor and Laurence Meikle baritone.
The first requiem by Michael Haydn introduced the audience to a relatively new work. Michael Haydn has been somewhat eclipsed by the fame of his brother Joseph but he was much admired by Mozart and Schubert; he taught Weber and in all this we see that common thread of influence which the season's concerts have stressed. Written for the Archbishop of Salzburg, this requiem is short on solemnity and may have too much of the magisterial! The output of four trumpets, three trombones and those active timpani made for a difficult balancing exercise with the voices at times, but that is down to the composer!
The influence of this work on the popular Mozart's Requiem was clear but in this, the orchestra, choir and soloists are given the opportunity to use their musical talents to the full, demonstrating great subtlety and sensitivity in their performance. This concert was an excellent treat for the large and appreciative audience. Director and conductor Marco Fanti received a well-deserved, prolonged ovation and warm tributes were paid to assistant director Mavis Fletcher who has trained and led the Singers during Marco's absence.
This has been an excellent series of concerts and we look forward to the Singers' Summer Concerts on 16th June in Crosthwaite Parish Church, Kendal and then repeated in St Paul's Church Brookhouse on 17th June – details on www.lancastersingers.org.uk
- Elizabeth Cole
REVIEW OF AUTUMN CONCERT 12TH NOVEMBER 2011
Review of Autumn Concert in Ripley St Thomas School Chapel 12th November 2011
The programme was intriguingly headed ‘Intimations of Immortality – Some Sources for the Mozart Requiem'. All four items performed in this concert, with the possible exception of the opening Handel Anthem, were new to the Singers and audience but however daunting that may sound, the imaginative combination was most successful.
Three unfamiliar 18th century choral works, all had a strong Mozart connection
The concert opened with the ‘Funeral Anthem for Queen Caroline' by Handel and gave a dramatic setting of a religious text with an astounding variety of mood in its separate short sections. The extremes of texture were excellently reflected by the choir.
The newly published Magnificat by Martini, who was mentor to and admired by Mozart, was a delightful surprise, sung with all the precision and delicacy needed; this was no ‘Handelian' drama but a joyful unbroken chorus. The unfinished Requiem by Gassman would have been known to Mozart and the Mozart connection was clear. Again the Singers produced marvellous contrasts of dynamics.
These three works led to the concluding piece, an early psalm setting by Mozart, the Misericordias Domini. The contrapuntal nature of the music was challenging, which the Singers mastered with apparent ease and left the audience in admiration of the standards they achieve.
The choir was accompanied by a delightfully talented sextet of strings and oboes led by Wendy Cann and the organ continuo part played by the very able organist, Ian Pattinson.
Mavis Fletcher, deputy chair of the Singers conducted and directed, in the absence of Marco Fanti due to ill health and fully merited the appreciation shown by both audience and Singers for her excellent leadership. All who enjoyed this polished performance must surely be looking forward to the Singers' presentation of Mozart's Requiem on 17th March in St Peter's Cathedral.
- Elizabeth Cole
REVIEW OF SINGERS' CONCERT – ‘SUMMER SERENADE'
Review of Singers' Concert – ‘Summer Serenade' in Christchurch, Lancaster
Sunday 12th June 2011
This was truly a Serenade of Talent!
Director Marco Fanti led the Lancaster Singers in a delightful evening of sacred and secular choral music interspersed with instrumental works performed by himself on the violin and accompanied by the talented Allison Hui.
Sacred choral works – so representative of English Church anthems ranging from the 16th to the 19th centuries – by Christopher Tye, Thomas Attwood, John Goss and John Stainer, were ably performed by the Singers. In these they showed confidence and expertise in following the demands of their conductor's dynamics. Some of these pieces were performed in their recent tour in and around Bologna, Italy and were greatly appreciated by their Italian audiences. Then in a new venture for the Singers, director and violinist Marco Fanti accompanied by Singers' accompanist Allison Hui played ‘Four Scottish Songs' by Ottorino Respighi. These Songs were composed in 1924 and their delightful Scottish melodies, with qualities that were at times both haunting and playful, were brilliantly performed.
The Singers then sang ‘Five English Folk Songs' by Ralph Vaughan Williams. He believed folk songs had behind them ‘……not the imagination of one great poet but the accumulated emotion…. of the many successive generations who have read and learned and themselves afresh, re-created the old majesty and loveliness….. There is in them … the spiritual life-blood of a people',
These words from the programme-notes rang true as the Songs were performed.
After a convivial interval with refreshments, we were enticed by the Singers performing ‘Set Me As a Seal', a composition by Hermione Roff who is a member of the Singers and in 2010 was awarded the prestigious ‘New Carol of the Year' award. This was followed by the ‘The Lily and the Rose' by Bob Chilcott who was a member of the Cambridge ‘King's Singers' and is now well established as an inspirational composer of choral music
Marco and Allison then performed ‘Salut d'Amour' and ‘Idylle' by Edward Elgar. They were captivating and enchanting.
This remarkable evening was completed by the Singers' performance of six works ‘From the Bavarian Highlands' by Edward Elgar where once again they demonstrated their ability to perform each item as led by their charismatic director Marco Fanti.
A truly delightful concert confirmed by the prolonged applause from a delighted audience.
FAMILY CONCERT JUNE 2011
Concert Review: North West Children's Honour Choir: celebrating its fifth year.
Saturday 11th June 2011 in Preston marked a series of celebrations by three very different choirs. The event was a family concert given by the North West Children's Honour Choir, the Lancaster Singers and Blackburn Central Youth Choir. The venue was Fulwood Methodist Church, recently refurbished and celebrating its Centenary Year.
The Honour Choir came together for its fifth year under the direction of Bob Chilcott, who once again managed to fit three Saturdays into his busy schedule to rehearse and conduct this young choir. Their programme consisted of The Sparrow's Carol (Chilcott), which Bob arranged in an upper voices version for the event. It was sung in a clear, confident and lively style, the suitably spikey opening and lightly syncopated accompaniment contrasting with the gently flowing middle section before the return of the lightly contrapuntal main theme. Next came a very focussed and touching performance of Caccini's Ave Maria arranged by Jonathan Wikely. The choir created a pleasing vocal blend to deliver the sweetly smooth and sustained melody. This was followed by an exciting and highly entertaining performance of Stephen Deazley's The Circus where the choir rose to the challenge of the complex interweaving of texts and rhythms with great assurance. The Witch's Song by John Maxwell Geddes – a challenge for both choir and accompanist – was sung with energy and humour and wonderful expressive detail. Finally Bob's much-loved and moving Can you Hear Me was delivered with touching simplicity.
The well established Lancaster Singers is a mixed voice adult choir. They rehearse and perform under the direction of Marco Fanti who flies over from Italy to direct them. Their programme was an eclectic mix of music starting with three anthems from the New Oxford Easy Anthem book: O Come ye Servants of the Lord (Tye), Teach me Lord (Attwood) and God so loved the World (Stainer).Later came two works by Rossini (Ave Maria and Salutaris Hostia) and Fauré's Cantique de Jean Racine, written when the composer was nineteen. Their programme finished with The Dark Eyed Sailor (R.Vaughan Williams) and Elgar's Lullaby from Scenes from the Bavarian Highlands. There were several aspects to the Lancaster Singers' performances which made riveting listening. Notable was the space given to the texts through unhurried and sensitively shaped phrasing, their sonorously clear textures and a wide range of dynamic colourings.
The Blackburn Central Youth Choir, conductor abcd member Gill Fourie, were only on their second public outing since forming only a few months before the concert. They performed with astonishing assurance for such a new choir and entertained the audience with Dave and Jean Perry's Humpty Dumpty, The Mouse Madrigal (arr.Steven Porter), Gwyn Arch's compelling arrangement of Rodrigues La Camparsita and their own thoughtful and humorous arrangement of ‘It's not Perfect' by the Australian composer, actor, comedian and writer Tim Minchin. The choir's performance was characterised by secure harmonies, sonorous singing, some very precise articulation and a real understanding of the texts. They also punctuated the music with some well staged actions and very quickly established a rapport with the very appreciative audience.
The Lancaster Singers joined the Central Youth Choir for a sweetly tender and lyrical performance of Bob Chilcott's The Lily and the Rose and the moving finale Like a Singing Bird (Chilcott) brought all three choirs together. This arrangement, written for the Lancaster Singers and the Honour Choir in 2010, weaves Burns' ‘My love is like a red, red rose' into the Christina Rossetti poem. So uplifting was this performance from the massed choir that the audience, who clearly did not want the evening to end, insisted on an encore!
This was an evening of contrasts. The choirs were of very different ages and stages – from nine year olds, through teenagers to the more experienced ‘keenagers' – and their conductors all work in different musical environments. Each choir had a unique and very tangible rapport with their conductor and a special style of their own. But what shone throughout the evening was a true sense of celebration through singing and friendship, all delivered to a warmly supportive and appreciative audience and creating a truly joyous and memorable event.
Special thanks are due to our wonderful accompanists, Julia Mayall and Allison Hui and to Mavis Fletcher, not only for bringing the Honour Choir together every year but also for organising the whole event.
- Stella Jackson
Review of ‘Italy Explored,' Saturday 19th March 2011, by Martin Widden
Under the direction of their Italian Director Marco Fanti the Lancaster Singers brought a varied and unusual programme of Italian sacred music to Morecambe Parish Church on Saturday 19th March 2011.
Highlights of the programme were Cherubini's Credo for 8 voices, which deployed the Singers in 2 separate choirs and organist Ian Hare's performance of 2 pieces by Frescobaldi (organist of St Peter's Rome in the early 17th century) and 2 pieces by Marco Bossi (a notable Italian organist of the 19th and early 20th centuries). These items were brilliantly played by Ian Hare, who was the founding director of the Singers in 1975. He is now Director of Music at Crosthwaite Church Keswick. The showpiece Bossi Scherzo made full use of the organist's and the organ's capacities and received enthusiastic applause.
Supporting choral pieces were from the Rennaisance period and later works by Puccini, Donizetti and Rossini, composers well known for their operatic works but less well so for their sacred compositions. The earlier works contained some radical harmonies and the Singers made the most of the operatic qualities of all the pieces and sang them with verve.
The Cherubini Credo, a magnificent and demanding work which is rarely performed in the UK, was presented skillfully by the choir and with their obvious enjoyment, to the delight of the audience.
Overall, this was a fine concert by the Lancaster Singers, with much credit due to the dynamic direction of its conductor Marco Fanti.