Here`s our latest review for Langcliffe singers.
SETTLE COMMUNITY CAROL CONCERT
SETTLE PARISH CHURCH: 16.12.18
As a child one of my greatest pleasures was opening a selection box, a chance to enjoy all my favourite treats and maybe experience one or two also with which I was less familiar. In many ways this community concert is very similar, there are certain things which you can guarantee will be there and also there's bound to be something a bit unexpected. Featuring a range of the many musical groups and talented individuals in Settle it is always an event which offers something for every taste and features a range of styles, but the one thing which unites them all is their determination to celebrate Christmas and to share their own enthusiasm for music. This year's programme featured two organists, and began with Graham Toft's stunning interpretation of the Geoffrey Shaw's arrangement Fantasia on Adeste Fidelis, an exceptionally complex piece which allowed us to experience the organ being played at full power. This was followed by two traditional pieces by Settle Voices, their folk style being particularly suited to "The Boars Head Carol" and "Good King Wencelas". Paul Fisher provided both a change of mood and season with the organ solo "Punting on the Cam" and then performed a swift change back with a French inspired arrangement of "Adeste Fidelis", proving once more just how even the most familiar piece can reveal hidden depths in the hands of each individual composer. From French to German with Settle Amateur Operatic Society's peformance of "Stille Nacht", as featured in this year's production of "Oh What a Lovely War", this was followed by a taster for next year's production of "Sister Act" with a great rendition of the classic "I Will Follow Him". The wonderful harmonies of Langcliffe Singers predominated in their trio of songs, including two pieces by John Rutter and an exceptionally haunting arrangement of "In the Bleak Mid-winter". The first half was brought to an exquisite ending by the inimitable style of Octameron, who moved effortlessly from the atmospheric contemporary piece "The Angel's Carol" to the "Earl of Salisbury's Carol", dating from the Renaissance and through to the ever-popular Sleighride before concluding with a lively arrangement of "See Amid the Winter's Snow". The delights however were far from over as the second half of the programme featured the talents of the Swing Band, who along with their soloist Rachael, set the rafters ringing with a programme which included some very lively takes on familiar carols, perennial Christmas favourites such as White Christmas, a sparkling "Santa Baby" and a full scale glittering and rocking "Rockin' Robin" before ending on a rousing race through a medley of well known tunes - complete with audience participation - in "Christmas Festival!". Truly a feast of talent was on offer and the many performers in both sections offered up a banquet of musical pleasures.
ELIJAH: LANGCLIFFE SINGERS
GIGGLESWICK SCHOOL CHAPEL: 8/12/18
Never short on ambition, this was a confident and skilled performance of a complex work by Langcliffe Singers. Based on the Old Testament story of the prophet Elijah, Mendelssohn's oratorio is a huge and dramatic piece in every respect. The performance requires 4 central soloists, additional soloists, an orchestra and a full chorus and one very over-worked and highly skilled conductor! The oratorio is divided into two part, each reflecting a wide range of emotions and stylistically is extremely theatrical dealing with hugely dramatic episodes from the life of the prophet. The first part of the performance deals with the Elijah calling the people back to the worship of Jehovah instead of Baal, as he states that this is the cause of the drought in the land, and goes on to challenge the priests of Baal to demonstrate the power of their god. Throughout this section Elijah is confident and full of hope and the section ends with celebration as Jehovah sends rain. However the second part of the work deals with despair and persecution and finally with Elijah's recovery of faith and ends once more with triumph as he is carried to heaven. Such huge themes require considerable skill and this was particularly apparent in the stunning solos, particularly Arthur Bruce as Elijah whose performance showed not only technical strength but also real passion and conviction. The Langcliffe Singers were joined in this performance by the very talented Brayside Orchestra, who clearly were in their element playing these stirring melodies in the marvellous acoustics of Giggleswick chapel and while there were times when there was danger of the orchestra drowning out the individual voices these were very few and it is to the credit of the chorus that they were well able to match the orchestra in terms of power and volume in the closing celebratory movements. In such a theatrical piece it is hard to pick out particular sections, however it would be wrong not to highlight the wonderful sequence which made up the increasingly dramatic confrontation between Elijah and the priests of Baal. This truly was joy to hear. By way of contrast there were a number of much quieter and reflective pieces such as the section dealing with the raising of the widow's son and the haunting choral section "He, watching over Israel, slumbers not nor sleeps". This angelic chorus, fittingly beneath an angel bedecked dome, was genuinely moving, as was the inspirational solo "O rest in the Lord". The one thought however which dominated the evening and which must have been clear to all who attended was very simply a realisation of the amount of effort and dedication which had been required to stage a work of this spectacular scale, and not only to attempt to stage it but to do so with such confidence. It was an amazing experience, to recreate this Victorian masterpiece with such splendour in a small dales village says a great deal about all the participants and the inspirational work of their conductor, Nigel Waugh.
LANGCLIFFE SINGERS: GIGGLESWICK SCHOOL CHAPEL 14/4/18
MAKE A JOYFUL NOISE UNTO THE LORD
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.