YORK Musical Society’s glorious celebration of Baroque music at York Minster tonight is postponed rather than cancelled.
“We are classing it as ‘postponed’ as we do plan to incorporate this fabulous repertoire at some point in the future when we are allowed to sing together again,” says YMS’s Lesley Peatfield..
“We are still rehearsing the lovely Handel anthems and the Gloria via Zoom for those members of YMS who have been taking part this term and plan to sing each piece through online in the ‘splendour’ of our own homes instead.”
Lesley adds: “With the future of choirs and singing in groups a big subject for debate, we are planning to rehearse and enjoy Handel’s Messiah for the autumn term via the Zoom platform. Keep singing and stay safe.”
YORK Musical Society’s online rehearsals are on song and on trend, as the Monday sessions on Zoom go from strength to strength.
Session host Lesley Peatfield says: “We’ve been running them from the start of the lockdown, and I’m especially proud as a lot of our older members have successfully navigated the software to be able to manage this.
“Some have even got their first computers for lockdown to be able to appear at our regular Monday night events.”
As many as 80 singers join in, their ages ranging from an 18-year-old bass to 90. “We meet at 7pm for the sopranos and altos and 8pm for the tenors and basses, an hour each every Monday evening, when either David Pipe, our musical director, or John Bradbury, our accompanist, each take a session, leading from the piano, and swap over each week,” says Lesley.
“As well as hosting, I keep each session running technically and answer questions in the chat box.”
In the week the nation went into Covid-19 lockdown, York Musical Society was to have performed at York Minster. “That should have been a night of Faure’s Requiem, alongside a less well-known Michael Haydn requiem, which is so beautiful,” says Lesley.
“We had to cancel, of course, but we do hope to offer that programme sometime next year.”
Coming next, on Saturday, June 13 at York Minster, would have been YMS’s summer concert, Splendours Of The Baroque, a joyful programme of Vivaldi’s Gloria, Marcello’s Trumpet Concerto in D minor, Handel’s Arrival Of The Queen Of Sheba and Handel’s Coronation Anthems.
“We’ve had to cancel that concert too,” says Lesley. “The Corona-tion anthems – Zadok The Priest, Let Thy Hand Be Strengthened, The King Shall Rejoice and My Heart Is Inditing – and have never been more appropriate,” says Lesley, poignantly.
After one Zoom rehearsal, Lesley wrote on social media: “Over 80 members joined us for a bit of note bashing for Vivaldi and Handel. Even though we may never perform this, the feeling of the community coming together is priceless.”
Members’ post-session comments to Lesley on the chat line testify to the “virtual” rehearsals being such a breath of fresh singing air amid the pandemic. “Thank you – this is the highlight of my week in lockdown,” said one.
“A very big ‘thank you’ for the Monday evening rehearsals, which I am very much enjoying, and for sending the scores out – much easier to follow,” wrote another. “Thank you to David [Pipe] and to John [Bradbury] for their patience and efforts and to Lesley for her expertise in enabling the sessions.”
A third commented: “I’d just like to express my thanks to you all for organising these online rehearsals. I think David is too modest about how valuable they are musically. We can learn a lot at this stage.
“There is no doubt they are a huge boost to the morale of all the individual members, restoring our sense of community and connection to those we cannot meet in person.”
A fourth enthused: “It is amazing how some proper singing, even over only half an hour, leaves one with such a good feeling inside. Can’t wait for the next session.”
The Zoom uplift each Monday is best summed up by one member, who confessed to “enjoying it far more than I thought I would”, concluding that “Singing is pure therapy”.
Such a sentiment no doubt will be shared by so many other singing groups in York and beyond, now in the grip of the “remote rehearsal revolution”, be it Ewa Salecka’s “Prima Virtual Ensemble” or Jessa Liversidge’s myriad groups.
Looking ahead, Lesley says: “ We’re rehearsing with a view to an informal performance for friends and family at St Olave’s School, where we normally rehearse in the Shepherd Hall, whenever we manage to get back to face-to-face rehearsals.” Roll on that day.
SOPRANO Anna Prosser and tenor Robert Anthony Gardiner will sing with
York Musical Society for the first time in March 28’s performance of Gabriel Fauré’s
Requiem in York Minster.
This luminous work will be complemented by Michael Haydn’s Requiem in C minor. “You might think that having two requiems in one concert isn’t an imaginative programming choice,” says conductor David Pipe.
“Even in rehearsals, though, it’s fascinating to hear how these two works, using much of the same liturgical text but separated by over 100 years, are so very different in style and musical content. This is an unusual opportunity to savour the contrasting responses of two fine composers.”
Fauré’s Requiem, first performed in 1890, uses a shortened version of
the funeral mass and is serene, peaceful and full of haunting melodies. Michael
Haydn is the lesser-known younger brother of Josef Haydn. “His less frequently
performed but exquisite Requiem (1772) is said to have inspired Mozart’s own
final work,” says Pipe, York Musical Society’s principal conductorsince
Anna Prosser, a choral scholar and vocal coach at Leeds Cathedral, and Robert
Anthony Gardiner, who lives in Leeds, will be joined on solo duty by mezzo-soprano
Kate Symonds-Joy and bass Alex Ashworth.
Both have sung previously with York Musical Society, Symonds-Joy performing
Verdi’s Requiem in November 2014 and Bach’s St Matthew Passion in March 2018;
Ashworth, the title role in Mendelssohn’s Elijah in May 2015 and in Bach’s
St Matthew Passion in March 2018.
Both sing with Solomon’s Knot Collective, who performed at last summer’s
Ryedale Festival and enjoyed a sold-out performance at last December’s York Early
Music Christmas Festival at the National Centre for Early Music, York.
Tickets for this 7.30pm concert are on sale at York Minster box office, on 01904 557256, at yorkminster.org or on the door. Prices are £25/£20 in the nave; £12 in the side aisles; £6, age 13 to 17; under-12s, free, but a ticket is required and they must be accompanied by an adult.