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

St Lawrence Trinity Festival marks £410,000 organ restoration with recitals

Undergoing restoration: The organ at St Lawrence Parish Church after its move from St Michael-le-Belfrey

YORK Minster is not the only church building in York with a headline-making organ restoration project.

By comparison with the £2 million price tag to dismantle, clean and repair the 5,400 pipes of the cathedral’s grand organ, a sum of £410,000 has perked up the 1885 Denman organ at St Lawrence Parish Church, in Lawrence Street.

In an alternative kind of organ donation, It had been transferred from St Michael-le-Belfrey for restoration and installation by Malvern organ-building firm Nicholson & Co at St Lawrence.

St Lawrence Parish Church in Lawrence Street: York’s second largest ecclesiastical building

To mark the project’s completion, the Anglican 19th century church will hold the St Lawrence Trinity Festival of music and services from May 29 to June 5 in light of the Step 3 relaxation of the Coronavirus restrictions.

The festival programme will include a demonstration of the organ by Nicholson & Co ahead of the inaugural recital by Robert Sharpe, York Minster organist and director of music, on May 29 at 10.30am.

In a Festal Choral Evensong on May 30, the restored organ will be blessed by the Bishop of Whitby, the Right Reverend Paul Ferguson, at 6.30pm. 

“The church finally has an organ worthy of its size,” says Jonty Ward, director of music at St Lawrence Parish Church, where he will play a recital on June 3

Looking forward to the restorative festival, Jonty Ward, director of music at St Lawrence, says: “We are very pleased to have such a brilliant range of musicians from York coming to take part in the Trinity Festival 2021, and that there is such a magnificent instrument at the very centre of it.

“St Lawrence is the second-largest ecclesiastical building in York after only the Minster, providing plenty of space for people to attend the festival and safely enjoy the fantastic music as the church finally has an organ worthy of its size.”

Throughout the festival week, further organ recitals will be performed by musicians associated with St Lawrence and the City of York: William Campbell, May 31, 4pm; David Norton, June 1, 4pm; Jonty Ward, June 3, 4pm, and Timothy Hone, music and liturgy administrator at York Minster, June 4, 4pm.

The 1885 Denman organ, restored by Nicholson & Co

The Black Sheep Consort will give a 7pm recital on May 31; the feast of Corpus Christi will be marked with a Sung Mass on June 3 at 7.30pm, and the festival will culminate with Choral Matins on June 5 at 11.30am.

Attendance is free to all the events, but booking is required for the Inaugural Recital (May 29) and the Festal Choral Evensong (May 30) at

St Lawrence Parish Church is on Lawrence Street, just east of Walmgate Bar, York. Postcode: YO10 3WP.

The retro-designed poster for the St Lawrence Trinity Festival 2021