The Langcliffe Singers

Choral Classics in the Yorkshire Dales

Reviews -   .

Bach’s  ‘St. John Passion’

Giggleswick School Chapel: 10th April 2011

Bach’s ‘St. John Passion’ is an ambitious work for any amateur choir, but the Langcliffe Singers responded to the challenge. As they began the opening chorus with repetitions of the word ‘Hail!’ it was immediately apparent that this would be a dramatic performance. The variety of dynamics achieved in this chorus gave a foretaste of things to come.

The choir are given a variety of roles in this work, taking part in the story, commenting upon it, and leading the audience in the singing of chorales – popular hymn tunes of the 16th and 17th centuries. The crowd choruses often have complex textures, but it is important for the words to be heard; the choir’s excellent diction meant that this was always the case. Even when there was a lot of repetition of words, the musical director, Nigel Waugh, ensured that the drama was maintained by keeping the tempo going. The final chorus, ‘Sleep well, and rest in God’s safe-keeping’, provided a complete change of mood, with its smooth lines and gentler atmosphere, bringing the work to a moving conclusion.

The choir were joined by 5 soloists, all of whom appeared by permission of the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. It was good to see such encouragement being given to young singers. Perhaps the youngest of them was Colin Brockie, who has been a member of the National Youth Choir of Scotland for the past 10 years. He has a voice of amazing maturity, and clearly has a great future ahead of him. In many ways, Richard Pollock had the most demanding task, as the Evangelist who tells most of the story. He accomplished this with great clarity. Terence Ayebare took the part of Christ; his rich baritone voice ensured that these words always stood out. The soprano and mezzo-soprano soloists comment on the action rather than participating in it, a task which Stephanie Pfeffer and Helen Jarmany performed with confidence.

As in Bach’s day, the audience were invited to join in the chorales. At first they seemed reluctant to do so, but at the end of the interval the Musical Director suggested that they should stand for these movements. This led to a little more participation – and ensured that the performers received a standing ovation, as the work ends with the chorale ‘O Jesus, when I come to die’!

The warm reception was justified, however. The choir, soloists and musical director should feel that their hard work was rewarded, while the organist, Hugh Davies, deserves a special mention for his sensitive accompaniment.

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Christmas by Candlelight

Settle Parish Church: 11th December 2010

At this atmospheric concert the audience were invited to step back in time to experience Christmas as it might have been celebrated around 300 years ago. The congregation gathered in candlelight to celebrate the dawning of Christmas with a midnight mass and the choir took their places to perform works from Italian and French baroque, setting words from the Latin mass to familiar tunes. Everyone held their breath… and the concert began. From the first assured notes of Vivaldi’s Gloria it was very obvious that the choir were on confident form and that this would be a stupendous evening. The Gloria is a joyful hymn of praise with eleven relatively short movements which lead to a joyous conclusion. Throughout the piece it was very, very obvious that the choir were thoroughly enjoying every minute of their performance and this enthusiasm communicated itself to the audience, who sat rapt. Special mention should be made of the wonderful organ accompaniment; a truly outstanding piece of playing by Hugh Davies. The soloists too were particularly effective, sopranos Sheila Hartley and Samantha Glossop being excellent throughout. The richness of tone of the alto, Julie Glossop, was extremely moving as there were times when her voice simply seemed to fill the church as if from the very ether.

Two Noels (Carols) by Daquin provided an excellent further showcase for the talents of Hugh Davies and the audience were treated to outstanding organ solos as an interlude between the two choral works. Typically baroque in style the complex rippling notes and the very intricacy of the pieces made it seem at times as if there were two performers echoing one another in a striking duet. This was an amazing accomplishment and greatly enjoyed by all.

The second of the choral pieces was the Messe de Minuit pour Noel ( Christmas midnight mass) by Charpentier. The piece was novel in its time in that it brought together popular Noels (carols) as the basis for organ arrangements and fused them with the words of the Latin mass. It was scored originally for strings, organ and flutes as well as voice. The organ took the dual role in this performance by also playing the string parts but was joined by two excellent flautists, Sarah Glossop and Judith Johnson. Their wonderful playing added an extra dimension to this very moving piece, which contained a truly amazing range of emotions with some particularly powerful slower sections. In order to give a better perspective on the piece it was preceded by a solo performance of the first of the folk tunes used in the score, Joseph est bien marie, sung with great tenderness by Sheila Hartley. The Messe is itself very complex in places, nowhere more so than the Credo, which forms the central pillar of the piece. At other times the dance-like origins of the music are clear and this lends an unexpected sprightliness to sections and acts as counterpoint to the solemnity of the quieter more reflective moments. This complex nature relies on numerous soloists from the choir throughout and congratulations therefore to all who took on these roles and performed so ably in what was an extremely evocative concert.

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Handel's Messiah

Settle Parish Church: 7th December 2008

Since its first performance in 1742 Handel’s Messiah has been an incredibly popular piece for choral singers and yet there is no definitive version. 

The performance by Langcliffe Singers, supported by Langcliffe Baroque Ensemble, was very close to the way it was originally performed with a small orchestra and medium sized choir.  There is no doubt that the work has a universal appeal and this performance certainly would be hard to fault. While the repetitious trilling of the baroque era may not always be to everyone’s taste there was certainly no way of escaping the fact that this was a stunning performance of a magnificent work.

What was perhaps surprising was how much the incredible playing of the orchestra drew the attention to more complex elements in the music which are often lost because of a superficial familiarity with the text. This performance had a real emphasis on the range of emotions within the piece as a whole and an extremely strong sense of the dramatic. Consequently you became very aware of the beauty of the orchestral passages and the way in which the solemnity of the language was underscored by the violins or the triumphant declamations heralded by trumpets and the majesty of the powerful timpani in the Hallelujah chorus.

The choir were on excellent form and seemed increasingly confident as the evening progressed, handling the complexities of the work with great style and very obvious enjoyment. The range of music in the piece is immense, with powerful chorus work, poignant arias and very profound solo sections and the integrity of the piece relies on the perfect coming together of all the elements.

The soloists in this production were outstanding; Stephen Burrows was a particular delight, lending a real clarity to the role. The sublime soprano of Ali Darragh was ideally complemented in the strength of Neil Sharp’s tenor and the wonderful baritone of David Rees-Jones.  The work of the chorus was a real joy to hear and congratulations to all concerned in achieving such a high standard and for the amazing dedication required in order to reach this level. The orchestra too were magnificent, bringing a sense of occasion to the evening.

This truly was a wonderful production and Tricia Rees-Jones is to be complimented on her hard work and creative flair in bringing together such a sensational Messiah. The Hallelujah chorus in particular was spectacular, as was the closing chorus.

As I overheard at the interval “It makes you proud to think that you belong to a small community that can produce something of such a very high standard”. I couldn’t agree more, this wasn’t just good by local standards, it was devastatingly good by any standard! 

Gill O'Donnell

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Langcliffe Singers' Spring Concert,

Giggleswick School Chapel 3rd May 2008 

An entertaining and contrasting programme featured Vivaldi's ever-popular Gloria and Duruflé’s evocative setting of the Latin Requiem Mass.

The choir were ably accompanied by an ensemble of local musicians and students from the Royal Northern College of Music and, in the second half, these were joined by the resident organist, David Arkell, on the newly-restored Father Willis organ.

Highlights of the first half included the duet Laudamus Te, which was sung with plenty of verve by Rachel Harrison and Ali Darragh. Rachel then went on to sing the Domine Deus with the obbligato oboe solo provided by Ross Barrand.

The choir came into their own in the second half for the more challenging work of the evening and captured the atmosphere and emotion of the beautiful Latin Requiem Mass.  The subtle counterpoint was well handled, with all the intricate threads of the plainsong successfully brought out. In the Kyrie, the soprano and alto sections were perfectly balanced in their duets. The choir's director, Tricia Rees-Jones, also managed to inject terrific excitement into the performance.  The concluding In Paradisum was exquisitely executed.

 Darren Everhart

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Musical World Première for Settle

Settle Parish was filled with the magnificent sounds of choral music on Saturday 15th July .  The Langcliffe Singers and Skipton Music Centre choir did not disappoint a large and enthusiastic audience with their imaginative, enjoyable and memorable programme.  Tricia Rees-Jones their Director and conductor coaxed a splendid sound from these local choirs with some crisp ensemble, super clarity, exciting dynamics and superb balance throughout.  Music included works by Purcell, Bob Chilcott and a world premiere of a challenging new work, ‘The Leaves of Life’, written by Andrew Gant and commissioned by the Langcliffe Singers. 

This skilfully crafted work was well received.  It was an exciting and stimulating piece, which contained some strong unison sections with angular melodies, long, skilfully navigated unaccompanied sections, and some free arrhythmic sections and a humorous waltz parody, which raised a few smiles!  The entire piece was a resounding success and it encouraged some of the audience to follow the choirs for a second helping at Christ Church Skipton the next evening.  Brian Heaton skilfully and sensitively accompanied the music on piano.  He was joined after the interval by Lindy Williams for a four handed accompaniment to the Bob Chilcott work, ‘Songs and Cries of London Town’.  This attractive work had our feet tapping to the rhythmically infectious tango sections and driving rhythms. 

We were also treated to a beautifully controlled rendition of a setting of William Dunbar’s ‘The Flower of Cities All’.  The Skipton Music Centre Choir under the direction of Nigel Waugh were also given an opportunity to show off and their brilliance certainly rang out in the ‘London Bells’ !

Andy Hiles

For more information about Andrew Gant and his music
contact Val Withams at Choral Connections,  val@choralconnections.com

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Craven Herald April 7th 2006

Impressive Start to a Double Dose of Requiem

The first of two performances of Mozart’s Requiem reported in last week’s edition of this newspaper, was given by The Langcliffe Singers at Settle Parish Church on Sunday, directed by Tricia Rees-Jones.

A large audience showed their justifiable appreciation of a fine interpretation of this much-loved work, Mozart’s last, composed during his fatal illness in 1791 and incomplete when he died.  Much romantic myth and controversy surrounds this composition, but there is no doubting the power and beauty of the music.

The opening movement showed a confident choir, with good tone and blend, responding to clear, musical direction, and this was followed by some sparkling singing in the Kyrie and by powerful rhythmic forte ensemble in Dies Irae.  The strong attack at the beginning of Rex Tremendae led effectively to the beautifully sung, quiet legato ending, and one of the highlights of the whole evening was the gorgeous choral singing in Lacrimosa, so responsive to the conductor and with excellent diction throughout.

Many similar high points of performance appeared elsewhere as well, but were not quite sustained throughout the individual movements.  So, for example, the opening of the Confutatis from the tenors and basses lacked bite and rhythm, whereas the ladies sang the legato passages very musically.

Similarly, the excellence of most of Domine Jesu Christe really danced along but was let down by insecure entries at quam olim.  Overall, however, the choir gave an impressive, musical performance.

The four soloists, who lifted everything musically each and every time they sang, enriched the performance wonderfully.  If individually the voices were all very good, then collectively the sound was even more impressive – so important in this work, because it contains no arias and Mozart never singles out one voice for any length of time.

The exciting voice of young New Zealand soprano Amelia Whiteman and the fine lyrical tenor of David del Strother (who has sung with this choir several times before and who seems to get better every time he appears) were coaxed and blended by the ‘older’ heads and tonal depth provided by Kathyrn Cook (mezzo) and David Costly-White (bass), whose opening of Tuba Mirum set a standard which thereafter never faltered.

Michael Hodges made us forget the absence of an orchestra by organ accompaniment of the highest quality, supporting the singers sensitively.

The first half of this all Mozart programme opened with the sublimely beautiful Ave Verum corpus, they type of music which this choir sings with such relish.

Laudate Dominum is heard so often by itself that it is easy to forget it is just one movement in a longer work, the Vesprae Solonnes de Confessore, which took us up to the interval.  This is a deceptively testing piece to sing and the choir was clearly less at ease, revealed by the fact that for most of the time very few eyes were on the conductor.

Therefore, though the excellent quartet of soloists again lifted the performance and tried hard to give confidence to the choir, there were too many tentative entries for the performance to carry real conviction.  However, it would be churlish to end on a critical note, because this was yet another evening of vocal music to remember from the Langcliffe Singers.

Readers will have a chance to hear them perform this Mozart programme again on April 29th at All Saints’ Parish Church, Ilkley.

David Fox

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The Creation: Franz Josef Haydn

Langcliffee Singers and The Langcliffee Sinfonia

Giggleswick School Chapel: 20th April 2013

 With the rays from the setting sun filtering through the stained glass of the chapel's "Creation Window", Giggleswick Chapel provided both an appropriate and inspirational setting for this magnificent concert.  From the opening notes through to the final chorus this was a truly outstanding performance by all concerned providing an extremely powerful and moving evening which was a genuine privilege to attend. Such perfection does not however happen by accident and therefore congratulations and thanks are especially owed to the dedication and enthusiasm of not only the singers and musicians but most particularly to the musical director, Nigel Waugh, whose energetic conducting was also a delight to watch.  

The Creation is a "big piece" in every sense, dealing with huge events and  combining a joyous piece of theatrical spectacle with child-like wonder and awe at the unfolding story. The first real sense of this came within the opening minutes when the musical depiction of chaos gave way to a stunning choral outburst of "And there was light".  There are similar flashes of playful fun throughout the piece with comic musical representations of the various animals including contented cattle, roaring lions, buzzing insects, excitable horses and nimble stags and an unforgettable " sinuous worm" which sent a ripple of amusement through the audience and was a masterstroke of interpretation by the gifted bass soloist, James Fisher.  Elsewhere in the piece Haydn conjures up the soaring of the birds and the boisterous sea in "Rolling in foaming billows" so that quite literally the music is painting pictures with sound.  

This production was further blessed with three outstanding youthful soloists,  Sarah Parkin (soprano), Timothy Langston (tenor) and the aforementioned James Fisher. Representing three angels witnessing the events - again highly appropriate beneath the angel encrusted chapel dome - they commentate on the events. The clarity and interpretative ability of the three performers meant that every nuance of the text was clear both in the narrative sections and the magnificent individual arias and duets. However just as "The Creation" is composed of three sections, so too is the actual make up of the piece and the excellence of the evening lay in the way that the soloists, orchestra and chorus came together with such precision and working as equals.  This was very much a collaborative performance and highlighted once again the wonderful musicianship which is to be found in our community. The soloists sparkled, the orchestra was dynamic and the chorus provided an incredible accompanying tonal canvas so that they together wove a splendid creation.

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Vivat Regina

Langcliffe Singers and Settle Orchestra

at Richard Whiteley Theatre: 22nd June 2013

Food supplies may still have been rationed during the Coronation but quite clearly music wasn't, as sixty years on the combined talents of Langcliffe Singers and Settle Orchestra presented a veritable banquet of music from the royal occasion. This rich and varied programme was a feast of delights with both the singers and orchestra in fine form. This was in no small part due to the efforts of their conductor, Nigel Waugh, who has worked incredibly hard to rehearse with both elements to create this wonderful celebratory concert.  An added bonus was the venue for the concert, where the seating arrangement meant that the audience was able to see both singers and orchestra extremely clearly, making the concert seem much more intimate. This also meant that we were privileged to watch an excellent example of the way in which the orchestra supports and encourages young players as there was very clearly some very skilled mentoring taking place in the percussion section which led to a tremendous performance from both newcomer and tutor. 

This was not the only bonus of the night as the evening featured a performance of the march "Grey Moorland" by Arthur Butterworth, which was conducted by the composer himself. This strikingly dramatic piece, evocative of the windswept moors above Haworth , while not necessarily in keeping with the regal theme of the evening was very much in keeping with the character of the area itself.  The programme contained principally well known pieces but this did not in anyway diminish their impact as despite their familiarity there was always something new to admire: an example being in the glorious opening which featured Purcell's Trumpet Tune and Air but where one of the most striking features was the excellent performance of the string section.  In Handel's "Zadok the Priest" the very familiar orchestral introduction was complemented by an incredibly powerful song of triumph by the choir, in which the male section were particularly impressive,   and was a perfect example of the way in which both groups worked in a way which was complementary to one another. Similarly there were a number of individual solos, both orchestral and vocal - the spine-tingling flute introducing the Fantasia on Greensleeves, the beautiful soprano solo in "Oh Taste and See" - but there was no point at which the attention was unduly drawn away from the efforts of the whole. 

The mood throughout the evening varied with spectacle and grandeur to the fore in the "Music for the Royal Fireworks" by Handel, which positively fizzed with life, through to the prayerful and almost hypnotic  "Thou wilt keep him in Perfect Peace" by Samuel Wesley, the unashamedly patriotic and stirring "Crown Imperial" by William Walton and on to the solemnity of Elgar's "Nimrod" which was performed with great skill and sensitivity to create a profoundly moving experience for all present before dying into a brief moment of complete stillness.   The second half of the programme allowed the audience to actually share in the joy of singing with such a stunning accompaniment as it featured traditional favourites such as "All people that on earth do dwell", arranged by Ralph Vaughn Williams, Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance  and "Jerusalem". These were all performed with great power and passion and received rapturously by the audience.

To conclude the programme there was no other possible choice but Nigel Waugh's excellent arrangement of the National Anthem - however, by then a standing ovation had already been guaranteed.

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Craven Arts Scene - December 2005

Assured display was Delight for audience
Langcliffe Singers - Gloria!

The Langcliffe Singers gave their latest concert — Gloria! — last Saturday, to a large. audience. in St Alkelda's, Giggleswick, which was richly rewarded for turning out on a damp evening, by an impressive performance of an imaginative programme of music.

The concert began with three Tallis motets, interspersed with organ pieces by Gibbons and Tomkins, and the opening was magical, with the full choir of over 60 voices encircling the nave and facing inwards to sing If Ye Love Me.

The beautifully controlled, soft legato singing and a slower tempo than normal for this piece, set an immediate quality of performance, which rarely faltered thereafter. In this section the solo organ pieces, confidently played by Michael Hodges, sustained the mood set by the choir, whose singing of the final sumptuous motet, Salvator Mundi, was excellent.

Vivaldi's Magnificat followed. Of the three parts of the programme, this was the least convincingly performed. The performance was patchy, with some movements bringing the best out of the singers, but others much less secure. The conductor worked very hard to give clear entries and to convey the different rhythms of the piece and when the choir's eyes were on her their performance was spot on; when their eyes were down, however, it was a different, more tentative story.

The choir clearly has the laudable policy of giving its members solo opportunities whenever possible, but in. this case a small number of the eight soloists used were not confident in their performance and this slowed down the momentum of the work overall.

After the interval, the choir and their guest soloist Julie Charles treated the audience to a memorable performance of Poulenc's Gloria. Written in 1946, this was a controversial composition at the time (labelled sacrilegious by some), but has become a favourite work among singers and audiences alike. By turns witty, reflective, joyful, wonderfully rhythmical, respectful, almost cheeky, this popular work contains much that is not at all easy for an amateur choir to sing; but The Langcliffe Singers were on top form almost throughout, singing with real brio and panache in the livelier movements.

The soprano Julie Charles, just a little tentative to begin with (not surprising, perhaps, since she could barely talk on the morning of the performance), rose quickly to the challenge of some exposed, high singing, and added significantly to the overall success , of the performance.

This was an evening to remember and The Langcliffe Singers should be proud of their performance, congratulations for which are due in no small measure to their director,, Tricia Rees-Jones.

David Fox

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The Armed Man: Karl Jenkins

Langcliffe Singers (& friends)

at Christ Church, Skipton: 28th March 2015

Karl Jenkin's work "The Armed Man (A Mass for Peace) was composed specifically to mark the transition from one millennium to another and to reflect on the passing of a particularly war-torn and destructive period of history and look forward in hope towards a more peaceful future. It is dedicated to the victims of the Kosovo conflict and is on many levels a challenging and thought provoking piece. It is therefore all the more commendable that this performance was assembled with only one full rehearsal and was a "come and sing" event featuring singers from a wide range of backgrounds who had joined the Langcliffe Singers simply for the event and for the afternoon rehearsal.  

They were accompanied by organist Alastair Mackenzie and by the musicians from Skipton Music Centre Senior Percussion Group and Senior Brass Group. These young and very talented performers showed considerable skill and enthusiasm in their vital role and were truly a credit to the work of the music centre demonstrating how fortunate the area is to have a means of fostering young talent in this way. The percussion plays a central role in the work and the group rose to this challenge wonderfully, as did both the cello soloist and the young trumpeter. Congratulations to them all.

In creating the work Karl Jenkins drew on a range of texts and there are times when it must be said that it is not an easy piece to listen to; it is disturbing in places with distressing imagery and painfully loud with percussion drowning out the lyrics which at points descend into wordless screams and moans. Yet it also contains movements of great poignancy (Now the Guns Have Stopped) and simple beauty (Benedictus) which make compelling listening. It is dramatic in form covering a range of musical styles and taking the listener on a whirlwind journey through the build up to war, an apocalyptic encounter which leads to devastation and on to a final upbeat ending "Better is Peace" and the haunting promise that "God Shall Wipe Away All Tears". It could be argued that it is at times overly self-consciously attempting to manipulate the listeners' emotions and yet it has an inner drive which compels in forward for both performer and listener, so that there is little time to reflect on how the effect is created.

That said, it has to be acknowledged that this was an absolutely riveting performance which kept you focused throughout. The soloists rose well to the challenges and the choir as a whole performed admirably, showing tremendous concentration. Clearly under the skilful baton of Nigel Waugh they continue to be inspired and go from strength to strength.

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MESSIAH: HANDEL

CHRIST CHURCH, SKIPTON: 25/2/17

LANGCLIFFE SINGERS AND FRIENDS

Handel's Messiah is undoubtedly one of the best-known and most frequently performed choral works in Western music, and so it would be only too easy to assume that it has always been unequivocally popular. However during his lifetime it was not particularly well liked and, although it was ground breaking in many ways, it was only its link with charitable performances which kept it in the public eye at all - a bit like an 18th century Band Aid single, it was known for its good intent rather than praised for its musicality. Fast forward to the 2017 and the change in perception is obvious as there is unlikely to have been anyone in the audience or choir who was not aware of its iconic status.  It is so well known that a choir which had not even met until the afternoon of the concert was able to come together and, with only two hours rehearsal as a unit, stage a performance which captivated the audience throughout.  Their enthusiasm for the work was apparent on the face of every choir member throughout the performance, and while the style of the production meant that this was not necessarily a completely polished performance what it lacked in finesse it more than made up for in terms of volume, flair and enthusiasm. Sadly illness and unforeseen circumstances robbed the audience of the opportunity to hear the tenor soloists, however the remaining solos were not only powerful but performed with great confidence and passion. This was particularly true in the cases of Margaret Coleman (Soprano) and Julia Glossop (Alto) who had the unenviable task of singing what are amongst the best known airs in classical choral work and yet still managed to breathe a sense of newness and sincerity into the pieces so that the audience heard them as if for the first time.  Clearly with an undertaking of this nature it is inevitable that there will be certain set pieces which become the focus of attention eg, Hallelujah Chorus at the conclusion of Part 2; For Unto Us a Son is Given in Part 1, All We Like Sheep in Part " etc Handel's "best bits" as it were! However, what should not be underestimated is the skill required to deliver these in such a way which not only makes the meaning clear and but conveys the power of the music as though it were freshly written. Familiarity can breed contempt, but when handled well it can generate not only enthusiasm but also showcase talent and generate considerable thought and emotion.  This was a concert which demonstrated not only the beauty of the music but also the talent of the assembled singers and the passion of the conductor to be able to raise the level of the performance to such a pitch where the combined effect was so much more than the sum of the individual performances. It truly was an regenerative and uplifting experience, full of vigour and reflecting the great enjoyment which each member clearly gains from singing:  celebration in song in every respect.