GIGGLESWICK CHAPEL: 11/6/16
LANCASTER SINGERS: ACROSS THE POND
The beautiful interior of Giggleswick chapel means that it is always a wonderful setting for concerts and the music created by the vibrant Lancaster Singers certainly lived up to the ambience of the venue. The music in "Across the Pond" included works from America, Canada and Britain and showed a tremendous range and diversity of styles, showcasing not only the talents of the choir as a whole but also providing a spotlight on the chamber choir, individual voices and the tremendous skills of the pianist, Ian Tate who performed a scintillating quartet of piano blues by Aaron Copland.
The programme was an interesting mixture of sacred and secular music, opening with a very striking and relatively modern piece "Jubilate Deo" which allowed the full impact of the eight part choral singing to be experienced. The purity of the tone added to the power of the piece tremendously. There was then a change of mood with three linked pieces: " I beheld her, beautiful as a dove", "She walks in beauty" and "Rise up my love, my fair one". This interesting trio of songs demonstrated admirably the very precise nature of the choir's singing and the wonderful blending of their voices.
There is a Welsh word, hiraeth, for which there is no direct English translation but which is well suited to describe the incredibly atmospheric rendition of many of the songs in this programme. It was there in the acapella version of the America folksong, Shenandoah and in the dying notes of Stanford’s "The Bluebird". It is a sense of poignant longing, touched with sadness for something departed and a wistfulness over what never can be; it is the moment when you feel the connection with something - in this case the music - and can't express why or how you are connected.
The range of emotions covered in this concert however was vast, with examples of great jollity in "It was a love and his lass”, a peculiarly eerie lullaby in Whitacre's "Sleep" and a powerfully uplifting hymn of praise in Scholz's "What Wondrous Love is this." A real highlight however was the stunning rendition of Morten Lauridsen's song, "Dirait-on" which gave the audience the opportunity to wonder at the fantastic harmonies created by this outstanding group of singers.
The programme drew to a close with two particularly atmospheric pieces, "Lullaby" by Daniel Elder and "Hush a bye Mountain" best known from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The first was deceptively simple but immensely moving and the second was beguiling with strong solo voices and ending with a dreamlike quality.
And just when you thought it was all over, there was more - in the form of an effervescent medley from "West Side Story" which simply sparkled with life and energy and flowed seamlessly from the fiery wit of "America" through to the achingly beautiful dream of "Somewhere".