REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Carols By Candlelight, Chapter House Choir, York Minster, December 15

Chapter House Choir musical director Benjamin Morris

WITHDRAWAL symptoms were widespread last year when Carols By Candlelight succumbed to Covid. For it has become a tradition without which no York Yuletide is complete.

This year it was back with a vengeance, transplanted from the Chapter House to the Nave of the Minster to allow a larger audience. Even if the candles did not flicker quite so intimately, the move was a resounding success: the building’s wide-open spaces were encouraged to co-operate.

Musical director Benjamin Morris had chosen a typically eclectic programme. Admirably, more than half of the 18 choral pieces were either composed or arranged by living musicians. In addition to the main choir, we enjoyed the Chapter House Youth Choir, conducted by Charlie Gowers-Smith, the traditional Handbell Ringers and three organ interludes from Asher Oliver.

The combined choirs opened with Andrew Carter’s tasteful arrangement of the Advent plainsong hymn, Veni Emmanuel, sung in procession. The Advent responsory that followed featured a beautifully crystalline soprano soloist (unnamed). Muscular contrasts came with Joubert’s Torches and in the crisp syncopation of Matthias’s arrangement of Sir Christèmas, the oldest carol here and reaching back to the 15th century.

At the other end of the spectrum, we had Master of the Queen’s Music Judith Weir’s setting of William Blake’s My Guardian Angel, with its cleverly repeating Alleluia, sung by the combined choirs. Even more atmospheric was Holst’s In The Bleak Midwinter, with the alternating choirs widely spaced. The sweet harmonies of Sally Beamish’s In The Stillness stood up well alongside Warlock’s tasty Bethlehem Down.

The choir’s final group was the best of all. After tenderly caressing The Shepherds’ Farewell, from Berlioz’s ‘L’enfance du Christ’, there was a lovely calm in Nicola LeFanu’s Saint Ita’s Lullaby and much feeling in Rutter’s melodious Candlelight Carol. We finished as we began, with founder-director Andrew Carter’s Make We Merry, spirited and heart-warming.

Along the way, the Handbell Ringers brought their mystifying skills to bear on four numbers, with Carter’s arrangement of Good King Wenceslas and John Hastie’s of We Wish You A Merry Christmas drawing especially warm applause.

The Youth Choir launched into the Vaughan Williams arrangement of the Yorkshire Wassail with special vigour. Oliver’s three contributions were gracefully restrained – we might have had a little more in the way of fireworks – although he had to do battle with a reed stop on the newly-restored organ speaking rather less than cleanly.

At ten minutes less than two hours despite no interval, the concert might have been a touch shorter for audience comfort in the chill, but it was wonderfully energising to have this great tradition back where it belonged.

Review by Martin Dreyer

Next performance by Chapter House Choir: Festival of Carols, St Michael-le-Belfrey, York, December 18, 7.30pm.

More Things To Do in York and beyond as Plan B doesn’t stop the Christmas buzz. List No. 60, courtesy of The Press, York

CHRISTMAS shows, Christmas concerts, Christmas plays, ‘tis the season for Charles Hutchinson’s diary to be jolly full.  

Jason Manford: “Exercising the old chuckle muscle”

Busy week for comedy: Jason Manford: Like Me, York Barbican, Thursday and Friday, 7.30pm.

SALFORD’S Jason Manford revives his funny-bloke-next-door schtick for Like Me, his follow-up to “the fun we had on my last tour”, Muddle Class, a show about turning from working class to middle class that played York Barbican in February and October 2018.

“In these trying times, it’s always important to be able to get away for a couple of hours and exercise the old chuckle muscle,” reckons Manford, 40, who has tickets available for both nights at yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Meanwhile, Jack Dee’s Off The Telly gig, moved from April 25 2020 to tomorrow night, has sold out. So too have Alan Carr’s Regional Trinket shows on December 18 and 19.

Filey Brigg, seascape, by Rosie Dean at Village Gallery, York

Exhibition of the week: Rosie Dean, Seascapes, Village Gallery, Castlegate, York, until January 22, open 10am to 4pm, Tuesday to Saturday.

SEASCAPE artist Rosie Dean has taken part in York Open Studios for the past ten years. Now she is exhibiting at Simon Main’s Village Gallery through the winter months.

“I feel total peace breathing the ozone, staring out to sea and focusing on the horizon line, sensing all around me and feeling the elements around me, the sights and sounds, the salt in the air. Pure contentment,” says Rosie.

Levellers: Part of York Barbican’s busy week for concerts. Picture: Steve Gullick

Curiosity concert of the week: The Magical Music Of Harry Potter Live In Concert With The Weasleys, York Barbican, Monday 8pm.

POTTY about Potter? Then exit those Shambles shops and head to York Barbican for a night of music from Harry’s films and the West End musical, performed by the London Symphonic & Philharmonic Film Orchestra with the Weasley brothers in tow.

Original actors, magic, star soloists, a choir and the orchestra combine in the debut European tour’s programme of John Williams, Patrick Doyle, Nicolas Hooper and Alexander Desplat’s soundtrack magical moments, plus selections from the Harry Potter And The Cursed Child score. 

More music in York Barbican’s crammed pre-Christmas diary comes from Levellers, Brighton’s folk-rock stalwarts, tonight and Steve Steinman’s tribute show, Anything For Love: The Meat Loaf Story, on Wednesday, both at 7.30pm. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Steve Mason: Solo gig at Stockton on the Forest Village Hall

If you seek out one gig, make it: Steve Mason, Stockton on the Forest Village Hall, near York, Tuesday, doors, 8pm; start, 8.30pm.

STEVE Mason was the frontman of The Beta Band, cult Scottish exponents of folktronica, a blend of folk, psychedelia, electronica, experimental rock and trip hop.

He first dipped his toe into solo work on Black Gold, his mournful 2006 album under the guise of the short-lived King Biscuit Time and has since released Boys Outside in 2010, Ghosts Outside with Dennis Bovell in 2011, Monkey Minds In The Devil’s Time in 2013, Meet The Humans in 2016 and About The Light in 2019.

Presented by All Off The Beaten Track, Mason will play solo on Tuesday. Box office: seetickets.com/event/steve-mason/stockton-on-the-forest-village-hall.

The poster for The Arts Barge Christmas Party! at The Crescent, York

Christmas jamboree of the week: The Arts Barge Christmas Party!, The Crescent, York, Tuesday, 7.30pm.

THREE York community musical groups, Bargestra, The Stonegate Singers and The Blind Tiger Dance Band, unite for the Arts Barge Christmas bash.

Bargestra, the 20-piece Arts Barge band skippered by Christian Topman, play jazz, swing, Beatles, ska and more. The Stonegate Singers, a community choir open to anyone, is directed by Jon Hughes, who teaches the music by ear, one part at a time, so that anyone can do it.

The Blind Tiger Dance Band, Arts Barge’s 16-piece Lindy Hop swing band with Rinkadon Dukeboy up front, brings together seasoned professionals and rising young instrumentalists. All three groups will join together to make a 50-piece ensemble for the festive finale.

Recommended but alas sold out already at The Crescent are Christmas shows by Mostly Autumn on Sunday and fellow York band The Howl & The Hum on Wednesday, both at 7.30pm.

Chapter House Choir at the double: Carols by Candlelight, York Minster, Wednesday; Festival of Carols, St Michael-le-Belfrey, York, December 18, both at 7.30pm.

THE Chapter House Choir’s Carols by Candlelight at York Minster has sold out, but a second chance to hear the York choir and its bell ringers comes at St Michael-le-Belfrey.

Tickets for a Festival of Carols are available via Eventbrite,  but do hurry because they are limited in number and selling fast.

Danny Mellor and Meg Matthews in Badapple Theatre Company’s The Snow Dancer. Picture: Karl Andre Photography

Global warming alert of the week: Badapple Theatre Company in The Snow Dancer, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Thursday, 7pm; Green Hammerton Village Hall, December 20, 2pm

GREEN Hammerton’s Badapple Theatre Company has revived artistic director Kate Bramley’s magical eco-fable, The Snow Dancer, for its latest rural tour.

Bramley’s original story blends festive family entertainment with an important eco-message and an original score by Jez Lowe, as actors Meg Matthews and Danny Mellor tell the story of the animals of The Great Wood, who are desperate for a long sleep, but find it too warm because something is awry.

The intrepid heroes in this fairy tale with a furry tail must search for the mysterious Snow Dancer to make it snow if they are ever to sleep. Box office: York, 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk; Green Hammerton, 01423 339168.

York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust’s artwork for A Nativity For York…Out Of The Darkness

Christmas plays of the week: York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust in A Nativity For York…Out Of The Darkness, Spurriergate Centre, Spurriergate, York, December 17, 7pm; December 18, 2pm, 4pm, 6.30pm. A Christmas Carol, Mansion House, York, December 17 to 19, 7pm.

TERRY Ram directs the second York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust community production for Christmas, drawn from the York Cycle of Mystery Plays in the old church atmosphere of the Spurriergate Centre. Box office: ticketsource.co.uk/york-mystery-plays-supporters-trust.

The Penny Magpie Theatre Company, from York, have sold out all three Mansion House performances of director Samantha Hindman’s adaptation of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, a version seen through the eyes of modern-day schoolboy Jon, who is gradually welcomed into Scrooge’s redemptive tale. Carols, mince pies, mulled wine and a house tour complete the festive experience.

Freedom is…Johannes Radebe’s debut tour show at at the Grand Opera House, York, next spring

Leaping into 2022: Johannes Radebe, Freedom, Grand Opera House, York, April 12, 7.30pm.

MAKING swish waves with baker John Whaite in Strictly Come Dancing’s first all-male coupling, South African dancer Johannes Radebe has announced his debut tour, Freedom.

Radebe will lead a company of dancers in classic Ballroom and Latin arrangements, scorching South African rhythms and huge party anthems, as he takes you on his journey from growing up in Zamdela, to travelling the world, winning competitions and becoming a Strictly professional.

Leave your inhibitions at the door and get ready for a night of energy, passion and freedom,” he says. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/York.

Chapter House Choir’s carol concert at York Minster sells out. Prompt booking advised for St Michael-le-Belfrey on December 18

St Michael-le-Belfrey: Playing host to the Chapter House Choir on December 18

THE Chapter House Choir’s ever-popular Carols by Candlelight at York Minster has once again sold out, two weeks before the 7.30pm performance on December 15.

 “However, if you have missed out on obtaining a ticket for this wonderful occasion, you have a second chance to hear the choir and the bell ringers of the choir,” says honorary secretary David Frith.

The second concert , a Festival of Carols with the Chapter House Choir, will take place at St Michael-le-Belfrey, York, on December 18 at 7.30pm. Tickets are available via Eventbrite,   “but hurry because they are limited in number and selling fast,” advises David.

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Chapter House Choir, York Minster Nave, 13/11/21

Composer Lillie Harris: “Commissioned piece will stand alone well as an introit or anthem”

ON the eve of Remembrance Sunday, there could be no more perfect choice of repertory than A German Requiem, Brahms’ non-liturgical memorial to the dead. It was given in the original German to the composer’s own piano-duet version, alongside a short unaccompanied new work commissioned from Lillie Harris.

Like so many performers during lockdown, Chapter House Choir under Benjamin Morris has struggled to stay together and survive. So this was a test of its mettle, as well as being the first post-lockdown ticketed musical event at York Minster itself.

While it is true that Brahms intended a “human” requiem, he did not mean a humanist one, as implied by the programme note. The two words are not interchangeable. He selected exclusively biblical texts for his work – as did Miss Harris, who used only texts selected by Brahms, understandably but also courageously, given that comparisons were bound to be made between old and new.

Her motet, entitled Comfort, began with a prolonged hum incorporating a three-note motif. At first this seemed to be the link between the five brief sections of text. But like the grass withering, it faded and the tonality became more diffuse, in a manner reminiscent of Eric Whitacre, with a slight loss of focus.

Alex Ashworth. “Forthright at the top of his range”. Picture: Debbie Scanlan

The ending – “so will I comfort you” – resolved beautifully, speaking of a technique capable of offering more challenges than were on offer here. My feeling is that this piece will stand alone well as an introit or anthem but will tend to be overshadowed in the company of a whole requiem, like a tugboat sheltering beside an ocean liner, largely overlooked.

Commercial nous was what drove Brahms to write this four-hands at one piano version of his Requiem, which was quickly demanded after the success of the orchestral original. It makes for a more intimate atmosphere but should not be regarded as a complete replacement.

A smooth line was immediately apparent in the choir, with sopranos pinging their high notes satisfyingly. In ‘For all flesh is as grass’, each return of the opening unison was progressively firmer and the closing fugato appeared in a crisp staccato.

Soprano Susan Young: “Maternal, consolatory tone”

In the first of his two contributions, baritone Alex Ashworth was forthright at the top of his range while sustaining an impressive legato. The mood-change at “the souls of the righteous” was almost jaunty; no reason why not, given Brahms’ positive attitude and keenness to avoid prolonged lugubriousness.

It was in “How lovely are thy dwellings” that it became clear that the pianists, Eleanor Kornas and Polly Sharpe, who were otherwise unfailingly tasteful, needed to come to the fore at moments when the choir was not involved rather than remain in the background. They were not, it should be added, blessed with a piano in ideal shape: it sounded particularly tinny in the upper reaches.

The maternal, consolatory tone that soprano Susan Young found for “You now therefore have sorrow”, suggesting that a silver lining lay round the corner, was just about ideal. She polished it off with a beautifully controlled piano that distilled the very essence of Isaiah’s words of comfort.

If the last trump fell slightly short of sending shivers down the spine and the fugue that followed it lacked clarity because individual entries were not given enough prominence, there was considerable compensation in the finale, ‘Blessed are the dead’, which was clean, confident and comforting. The Chapter House Choir is back and in fine fettle.

Review by Martin Dreyer

More Things To Do in and around York as pioneering dating show is game for laughs and love. List No. 57, courtesy of The Press

Seasick Steve: Just him, his home-made guitar and you at York Barbican tonight

CHARLES Hutchinson recommends veteran blues at the double, quilts, a dating show, chaotic Hitchcockian comedy capers, a Brahms Requiem and a Geordie comic out to dazzle.

Solo show of the week: Seasick Steve, Just Steve, A Guitar And Your Tour, York Barbican, tonight, 8pm

LAST year, American DIY blues veteran Seasick Steve released two albums, July’s Love & Peace and November’s Blues In Mono, his tribute to trad acoustic country blues recorded with a microphone from the 1940s as Steve performed the songs direct to an old tape machine. 

Now, York-bound Steve says: “I‘m lookin’ forward to coming and playing for y’all. Just gonna be me, you and my guitar. A few songs and a few stories, kinda like we just hangin’ out together! Gonna be fun. See ya there.” Tickets update: limited availability at yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Sanna Buck, Stephen Wright and Aran MacRae look on as a prone Daniel Boyle takes centre stage in rehearsal for York Settlement Community Players’ The 39 Steps. Picture: John Saunders

Play of the week: York Settlement Community Players in The 39 Steps, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, tonight until Sunday

PATRICK Barlow’s riotous West End comedy hit marks the Settlement Players’ return to live performance for the first time since March 2020.

Harri Marshall’s cast of eight takes on the challenge of combining John Buchan’s 1915 novel with Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 film scenes in a blend of virtuoso performance and wildly inventive stagecraft, playing 150 characters between them as the mysterious 39 Steps chase Aran MacRae’s Richard Hannay’s on a nationwide manhunt. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Hey, it’s The Manfreds: Playing the Grand Opera House, York, tonight

Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be? It’s even better at Maximum Rhythm N’ Blues with The Manfreds and Georgie Fame, Grand Opera House, York, tonight, 7.30pm

THE Manfreds and Georgie Fame team up for a celebration of Sixties rhythm & blues in an all-star line-up with hits galore to match.

Original Manfred Mann members Paul Jones, Mike Hugg and Tom McGuinness are joined by Family’s Rob Townsend on drums, Marcus Cliffe on bass and Simon Currie on saxophone and flute, plus former member Mike D’Abo to share lead vocals, and Blue Flames leader Fame on keyboards. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Ready to dazzle: Sarah Millican kicks off a three-night run at York Barbican tomorrow

Three-night run of the week: Sarah Millican: Bobby Dazzler Tour, York Barbican, tomorrow to Sunday, 8pm

SOUTH Shields humorist Sarah Millican’s new show, Bobby Dazzler, is doing the rounds on her sixth international tour.

“You’ll learn about what happens when your mouth seals shut, trying to lose weight but only losing the tip of your finger, a surprisingly funny smear test, and how truly awful a floatation tank can actually be,” says Millican, who has “spent the last year writing jokes and growing her backside”. Tickets update: limited availability at yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Masks, of the non-Covid protection variety, will be worn by participants in ventriloquist Nina Conti’s dating show. Picture: Matt Crockett

Game show of the week: Nina Conti: The Dating Show, Grand Opera House, York, tomorrow, 7.30pm

FAST-TALKING, faster-thinking ventriloquist Nina Conti and her cheeky Monkey host a pioneering new dating show for participants picked from the York audience.

What’s in store for the chosen ones? Apparently “she’ll be like Cilla Black with masks. Derailed. Not so much a Blind Date as a re-voiced one.” In a nutshell, they wear masks, she/Monkey talks, with no promise that true love will be found. Box office: atgtickets.com/york. 

Matthew Miller’s Golden Bird quilt from his Cloth & Colour installation at York Theatre Royal from Saturday

Exhibition launch of the week: Matthew Miller’s Cloth & Colour quilts, York Theatre Royal foyer, from Saturday to November 30

BASED in London, but from York, multi-media artist Matthew Miller launches his debut quilt installation in the first Beyond The Gallery Walls pop-up project to be mounted by Lotte Inch Gallery.

Artist Matthew and curator Lotte will be hosting the launch from 11.30am to 1.30pm on Saturday, happy to discuss his Cloth & Colour quilt designs. Interested in the ecological use of fabric in quilting, Matthew has used end-of-roll and pre-worn fabrics throughout his series of vibrant collages in cloth.

Alex Ashworth: Baritone soloist for Brahms’s Ein Deutsches Requiem at Saturday’s concert by the Chapter House Choir. Picture: Debbie Scanlan

Classical choral concert of the week: Chapter House Choir, York Minster, Saturday, 7.30pm

THE Chapter House Choir performs Brahms’s Ein Deutsches Requiem at York Minster in a rare opportunity to hear Brahms’s own arrangement written for piano – more intimate and transparent – with baritone Alex Ashworth, soprano Susan Young and pianists Eleanor Kornas and Polly Sharpe as the soloists.

This will be complemented by the world premiere of Lillie Harris’s Comfort, specially commissioned for Saturday’s concert. Box office: 01904 557200 or at yorkminster.org.

Open on Saturday: Carolyn Coles’s studio at South Bank Studios

Christmas shopping? Present opportunity at South Bank Studios’ Art & Craft Winter Fair, Southlands Methodist Church, Bishopthorpe Road, York, Saturday, 10am to 5pm

THE South Bank Studios artists’ group open their doors and studios to the public this weekend, when 28 artists will be exhibiting jewellery, ceramics, lino prints, textile art and fine art paintings and prints, all available to buy, just in time for Christmas. Entry is free.

Among those taking part are Carolyn Coles, Caroline Utterson, Jane Dignum, Lincoln Lightfoot, Richard Whitelegg, Mandi Grant and Fiona Lane. York Music Centre’s Senior Concert Band, Guitar Ensemble, Senior Folkestra and Big Band will be playing, and the icing on the cake will be the church team’s homemade refreshments.

Voila! C’est La Voix

Most glamorous show of the weekend: La Voix, Grand Opera House, York, Saturday, 7.30pm

FEISTY, flame-haired Royal Family favourite La Voix – the drag artiste creation of Chris Dennis – takes on the big divas and makes them her own in her Grand Opera House debut in The UK’s Funniest Redhead.

Billed as her “most glamorous show yet”, the 2014 Britain’s Got Talent semi-finalist will be combining stellar songs and saucy gags, high energy and diva impersonations, glamour and gowns – eight of them – as she switches between the vocal tropes of Tina Turner, Shirley Bassey, Liza Minnelli, Judy Garland and Cher at the click of a finger. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Millie Manders and The Shutup: Definitely not shutting up at the Fulford Arms on Sunday night

Gig with attitude of the week: Millie Manders & The Shutup, Fulford Arms, York, Sunday, 8pm

MILLIE Manders & The Shutup spark up cross-genre punk with a lyricism that pokes fun, draws you in or leaves you questioning social norms, teamed to vocal dexterity, grinding guitars, irresistible horn hooks and a pumping rhythm section.

The Londoners will be airing songs from October 2020’s debut album, Telling Truths, Breaking Ties. Box office: seetickets.com/event/millie-manders.

Willy Mason: Nine-year gap after he made a record called Carry On, but carry on he does at last with Already Dead album and tour date in York. Picture: Ebru Wildiz

Overdue return of the week: Willy Mason, supported by Voka Gentle, The Crescent, York, Tuesday, 7.30pm; standing show

NEW York singer-songwriter and lovely chap Willy Mason returns with Already Dead, his fourth album of characterful, sharp left-field pop, folk and Americana but his first since 2012’s Carry On.

“Magic, miracles, ghosts, world leaders; these days it seems there’s little left to believe in,” says Mason. “Lies outweigh truth and even truth can be dangerous. 

“Already Dead explores honesty and deception, anonymity in the digital age, good intentions with unexpected consequences, freedom, colonialism, love, God and purpose, because now is the time to restore some much-needed faith.” Box office: thecrescentyork.seetickets.com/event/willy-mason.

Soft Cell: 40th anniversary home-coming concert in Leeds. Picture: Andrew Whitton

Oh, and amid all these York events, here is the gig of the week outside the city walls: Soft Cell, Leeds 02 Academy, Saturday, doors, 6pm

IN 1981, Leeds synth-pop pioneers Soft Cell topped the charts with their Northern Soul cover, Tainted Love. This weekend, they play a 40th anniversary home-coming gig with an early start, kicking off with a DJ from 6pm.

LGBTQ icon Marc Almond and producer/instrumentalist Dave Ball will play two sets: the first from 7pm embracing songs from their back catalogue and previewing their first album in 20 years, Happiness Not Included, out on BMG on February 25 2022.

In the second, from 8.20pm, they will perform 1981 debut album Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret in full for the first time. Cue Say Hello, Wave Goodbye, Bedsitter, Memorabilia et al. Box office: myticket.co.uk/artists/soft-cell

Chapter House Choir to perform Brahms’s German Requiem and Lillie Harris world premiere at Saturday’s York Minster concert

Baritone Alex Ashworth: Soloist for Brahms’s Ein Deutsches. Picture: Debbie Scanlan

THE Chapter House Choir performs Brahms’s Ein Deutsches Requiem at York Minster on Saturday night.

This 7.30pm concert is a rare opportunity to hear Brahms’s own arrangement written for piano duet (the ‘London version’ premiered in 1873), revealing the work in a new light: more intimate and transparent, exposing a wider variety of choral timbres and textures.

Baritone Alex Ashworth, who also teaches singing at the Royal Academy of Music, joins soprano Susan Young, who has sung notable roles at English National Opera and Opera Holland Park, to perform the Brahms work alongside pianists Eleanor Kornas and Polly Sharpe.

Soprano Susan Young

“Hearing the Chapter House Choir is never just about the music; it’s about the whole experience,” says choir publicist Richard Long. “That’s why this performance of Brahms’s German Requiem promises to be a remarkable concert, combining one of the best-loved choral works of all time with the magical ambience of York Minster, four outstanding soloists – and a world premiere too.”

Musical director Benjamin Morris, York Minster’s assistant director of music, says: “The opportunity to explore this piece in its more intimate version for piano with four hands accompaniment has been really exciting for all of us.

“Together with the unique acoustics and incredibly grand architecture of York Minster’s Nave, this will offer an exhilarating and emotional experience of the German Requiem.”

Chapter House Choir musical director Benjamin Morris

The world premiere will be Comfort by award-winning emerging composer Lillie Harris, specially commissioned for Saturday’s concert.

Lillie says: “Reflecting the strong themes in Ein Deutsches Requiem of love, loss, acceptance, and human mortality, I have sought to bring these ideas together in Comfort: music to create an embrace of warmth, love and understanding, that acknowledges the sadness of loss but also celebrates the joy and memories in a life well lived, and that brings voices together to express support and comfort.”

This weekend’s concert will be dedicated to the victims of the Covid-19 pandemic. Tickets can booked on 01904 557200 or at yorkminster.org.

Composer Lillie Harris: Commission for Chapter House Choir

Who is composer Lillie Harris?

LILLIE graduated from the Royal College of Music in 2016, studying composition with Haris Kittos and winning the Elgar Memorial prize for her final portfolio.

Musical from a young age, her interest in composing grew out of learning instruments, a flair for languages and a love of creative writing. Narrative ideas and complex emotions are often a core element in her compositions, and perhaps explain her increasing interest in choral music.

Her pieces have been workshopped and performed by ensembles such as York’s Ebor Singers, the Assembly Project, Florilegium and Ensemble Recherche, and she has participated in young composer schemes with Psappha, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, National Youth Choir of Great Britain and London Symphony Orchestra, who commissioned her to write new pieces for its Elmer’s Walk Under-5s concert.

In 2017, she was awarded the Tenso Young Composers Award for her song cycle setting poems by August Stramm; in 2019, she was the joint-winner of Echo Choir’s composition competition for her setting of an Alice Oswold poem; in 2020, two choral works written on the NYCGB’s Young Composer Scheme were released on NMC Recordings.

Chapter House Choir’s Carols By Candlelight goes online on December 16

Going virtual: Chapter House Choir members assembled via home recordings for the 2020 Carols By Candlelight concert. Picture: Kat Young

THE Chapter House Choir will release an online version of its ever-popular Carols By Candlelight concert as part of York Minster’s Christmas programme.

After the Coronavirus pandemic snuffed out the usual Carols By Candlelight format, the chamber choir’s 30-minute video performance will be go live next Wednesday (16/12/2020) at 7.30pm, free to view via yorkminster.org./whats-on and on the choir’s social-media channels.

Created by choir members performing individually from home, the virtual recordings will be set against footage of York Minster’s 13th-century Chapter House in candlelight. Christmas carols both old and new will be complemented by festive music performed by the Handbell Ringers of the Chapter House Choir.

Highlights of Carols By Candlelight concerts from past years will feature too, taken from performances in 2012 under Stephen Williams and 1999 under Jane Sturmheit.

The choir’s musical director, Ben Morris, says: “Each year, people say to me that Christmas starts for them with Carols By Candlelight in York Minster’s atmospheric Chapter House. At the end of this year, which has seen so much hardship, when choirs have been silenced and singing has been so missed, we felt it was more important than ever to create a version of this special tradition, so that people far and wide could join us virtually and share in a few minutes of festive music in the run-up to Christmas.”

New footage of the York Minster Chapter House by David Rose will feature in the virtual Carols By Candlelight concert. Picture: David Rose

The film has been edited by audio and visual engineer Kat Young, at present a research associate at the University of York’s AudioLab, and includes new footage of the Chapter House by videographer and sound specialist David Rose. 

Formed in 1965 to raise funds for the York Minster Appeal, the Chapter House Choir is a progressive and dynamic ensemble that presents beautiful yet challenging programmes from the full range of the choral repertoire.

The chamber choir regularly commissions new music, such as Everyone Sang by Roderick Williams, premiered with The King’s Singers; Song Cycle: Vive la Vélorution by Alexander L’Estrange, for the Tour de France Grand Depart in Yorkshire, and Arcadia by Judith Bingham, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War.

New pieces by Gabriel Jackson, Bob Chilcott, Paul Mottram, Lillie Harris and the choir’s founder conductor, Andrew Carter, have been premiered too.

Coming next? Wait and see. The choir’s latest Coronavirus update, posted on its website on November 22, says: “We currently have no live concerts planned, but we look forward to returning to live performances as soon as we can.”