Langcliffe Singers - Registered charity 1007885
Langcliffe Singers -      Registered charity 1007885

Latest Review

Here`s our latest review for Langcliffe singers.





 In the year that marks a 100 years since the birth of Leonard Bernstein, the Langcliffe Singers compiled a programme to celebrate American music. The concept of American choral music is still very young and to put that into context, the building of the school chapel itself - between 1897-1901 - predated all the music being performed. Therefore the concert was very much a case of that odd hybrid, "modern classical". 

The evening opened with a performance of Randall Thompson's "Alleluia", and while the word alleluia is normally sung as a joyful noise of praise to the Lord this is certainly not the case in this piece. Although the only lyrics are Alleluia and a final Amen, the tone was more solemn than celebratory and there was a pervading sense of sadness throughout the piece. This did however imbue it with an ethereal beauty and impression of reflection and meditation.  

This theme continued elsewhere in the programme, not least in the second part of the evening where the programme comprised Samuel Barber's "Agnus Dei" and Morten Lauridsen's "Lux Aeterna".  Barber's "Agnus Dei" is deceptively simple, but immensely powerful and filled with passion and despair before resolving into a haunting final phrase of "give us peace" balanced by an almost whispered "have mercy upon us". I have often noticed at concerts that when there is a particularly moving performance there seems to be a collective sigh from the audience as the final notes fade and before the applause comes. This was one of those moments when the sigh seemed to linger before a hugely appreciative audience responded enthusiastically. 

Never ones to shirk a challenge, Langcliffe Singers excelled themselves by taking on Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Psalms. This intricate piece with Hebrew text, was certainly a highlight of the evening. Based on Judaic liturgy but with a real sense of theatre it more than did what it promised in the opening line where it claims "I will rouse the dawn!" The outstanding percussion alone was enough to guarantee this, with cymbals and drums very much to the fore. There were also some very moving passages, particularly the harp accompaniment to the solo at the beginning of Psalm 23 and the lingering closing line of the same psalm. 

Solos also made up part of the programme with an unusual setting of Cole Porter's "Night and Day" played upon the harp. Normally this is a passionate piece, underscored to echo the throbbing tom-toms of the lyrics but here it was transformed to something far more delicate and ephemeral.  Carl Ives' "Variations on America" also provided an unusual organ solo where there were some unusual takes on a familiar tune. While some may argue that there were not sufficient variation in the variations themselves, there is no doubt that this is a challenging piece designed to test the prowess of the organist and also reflecting a somewhat irreverent take on the familiar. I am sure I was not the only one to be suddenly ambushed by a vision of Her Majesty and Duke of Edinburgh on steam galloper horses as the strains of the national anthem morphed into a fairground calliope ride. 

Special congratulations to all the soloists, both instrumental and vocal for their efforts throughout and also to the conductor for his enthusiastic performance in this complex programme.

The evening concluded with the beautiful "Lux Aeterna", again a haunting, timeless piece and it was fitting that the concluding text for the evening should be the same as the two words which began it, "Alleluia, Amen" - followed, naturally, by a very deep and appreciative sigh. 


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