REVIEW: Steve Crowther’s verdict on Soon Amore Choir’s afternoon concert, 12/2/23

The poster for Soon Amore Choir’s Sunday concert

Soon Amore Choir, Unitarian Chapel, St Saviourgate, York, February 12

THE Soon Amore Choir programme was very much a pick’n’mix affair – and a very tasty one too.

It opened with a hunting call on natural horn, which threaded through the first half, chasing the concluding traditional French fanfare Et Chansons de Chasse. Of course, this was somewhat contrived, but it did treat us to the superb playing of Martin Lawrence.

There was much to enjoy here, not least the performances of Shoebox and Heavy Laden with Jane Stockdale (voice) and Dave Pearce (piano). Stockdale sang Shoebox with an instinctive feeling for folksong tradition while Pearce’s crisp piano octave attacks dispelled any sentimentality.  For Heavy Laden they were joined by the choir with the simple counterpoint setting acting to reinforce the song’s world-weary narrative.

The traditional Ghanaian Senwa Dedende was performed by the “people’s” choir, that is, us. And very well indeed and certainly better than our vocal coach, Chris Bartram!

As I know David Lancaster personally, it wouldn’t be particularly professional to comment on his piece itself. Suffice to say that the distinctive sound-world of Fell was very well performed by Soon Amore in its world premiere, where the ritualistic, repetitive choral statements were very clearly delivered, commenting on the convincing spoken narrative by Laura Potts and Gary Craig. Martin Lawrence’s playing was, of course, imperious.

By contrast, Bruckner’s sweet, touching Locus Iste simply glowed with joy. Following an impressive The Deer’s Cry by Arvo Part, which is actually quite tricky, the “people’s” choir were back to perform the traditional Bella Mama. The higher pitch gave our vocal coach the opportunity to redeem himself, which he did admirably. It was genuine fun singing the simple canon and very satisfying too.

Eric Whitacre is a very fine composer and his choral writing is always distinctive. The choir clearly relished the lovely harmonies and gentle dissonances of his Sleep and their enjoyment was infectious. For me, anyway.

Chris Bartram is an excellent, entirely musical conductor and his engaging manner made the Sunday afternoon concert a very rewarding experience.

Review by Steve Crowther

REVIEW: Steve Crowther’s verdict on The Chapter House Choir’s Carols By Candlelight, York Minster, 17/12/2022

The Chapter House Choir

THE Chapter House Choir’s Carols By Candlelight concert was again set in the nave of York Minster, rather than the Chapter House of days past.

The Choir was augmented by the Chapter House Youth Choir – superbly directed by Benjamin Morris and Charlie Gower-Smith respectively – the choir’s Handbell Ringers and York organist William Campbell.

The concert, touchingly dedicated to the memory of Dr Alvan White, the choir’s Candlelighter-in-Chief for these concerts for so many years, opened with Tasmin Jones’s simple but affecting ceremonial procession.

The Choir’s delivery of Gaudete was a dancing delight but Yshani Perinpanayagam’s In Bethlehem Above did suffer slightly with jarring high soprano intonation. William Campbell clearly relished David Willcocks’s Postlude on Mendelssohn and so did we.

The performance of Eric Whitacre’s Lux Aurumque was one of the night’s highlights: beautiful soprano singing, nigh-perfect close-harmony pitching creating a delicate, musical glow.

Cecilia McDowall’s Of A Rose’s use of the Choir’s upper and lower voices came across very effectively, as did the linear singing and moments of rhythmic togetherness. Well written, well performed.

Darius Battiwalla’s Suo Gan was simply lovely, as were the gently falling musical snowflakes of John Hastie’s O Come, O Come Emmanuel for handbells. The Youth Choir’s performance of John Joubert’s ever-infectious Torches was very well judged, even understated, to suit the Minster acoustic and enhance both clarity and enjoyment.

For your reviewer, however, the most rewarding offerings were the two versions of Jesus Christ The Apple Tree: the famous Elizabeth Poston setting and the new one composed this year by the Choir’s founder, Andrew Carter.

Both embraced the freshness, simplicity and fluency of the anonymous 18th-century New England text, both had a sweet, seemingly effortless delivery and both stayed in the memory after the concert itself.

Personally, I prefer the intimacy of the Chapter House itself, but a huge audience seemed perfectly happy here and were richly rewarded by this ever-present Christmas event. An event that continues to embrace a spiritual counterpoint to the season’s materialistic saturation of today. Maybe.

Review by Steve Crowther

The Ebor Singers mark release of American Christmas album Wishes And Candles with candlelit concert at St Lawrence’s Church

The Ebor Singers: Two Christmas concerts in York

PAUL Gameson directs The Ebor Singers tonight in an evening of beautiful choral arrangements for Christmastide at St Lawrence Parish Church, Lawrence Street, York.

The 7.30pm concert, A Christmas Celebration By Candlelight, also marks the launch of the York choir’s CD recording of Christmas music by contemporary American composers, Wishes And Candles.

Pieces from the disc, featuring works by Morten Lauridsen, Eric Whitacre, Dan Forrest, Abbie Bettinis and Matthew Culloton, will be complemented by festive compositions by John Rutter and Bob Chilcott.

“We’re looking forward to sharing music from our new album,” says Paul. “It took two years to put this together, thanks to a two-year Covid-enforced hiatus between recording sessions, so it was particularly enjoyable completing this in April this year.

“Music by Lauridsen and Whitacre is featured, but so too are other composers whose names and music deserve to be more widely known, such as Forrest, Bettinis and Culloton. There’ll also be some audience-participation carol singing, so bring your voices too!”

Tickets (£15, concessions £12, students £7 (16 plus), children free) are on sale at or on the door.

A Christmas Celebration is the first of two Christmas concerts in York for the choir, who will perform Part 1 of Handel’s Messiah (featuring the Christmas story) and Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols on Sunday, December 18 at 7.30pm  at St Olave’s Church, Marygate. Tickets: