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Celebrate! 40th Anniversary Concert


Zadok The Priest - Handel

Jesu Bleibet - Bach

Beatus Vir - Monteverdi

Hear My Prayer - Mendelssohn

Lift Up Your Heads (from Messiah) - Handel

Ave Verum Corpus - Mozart

The Heavens Are Telling - J. Haydn

God is Gone Up - Finzi

Locus Iste - Bruckner

Cantique de Jean Racine - Fauré

Ave Marie - Rachmaninov

Evening Hymn - Balfour Gardiner

Song for Athene - Tavener

Blest Pair of Sirens - Parry


Edward Taylor / Colin Marston / David Wells

Celebrate! 40th Anniversary Concert
Review by Geoff Gray (Carlisle):

This was an evening of wonderful choral singing to celebrate 40 years of making music since the Choir’s inception in 1979. And what an evening of celebration it was!

The choir was formed under the direction of David Wells, the then choirmaster and organist at St Andrews Church. David was there in person to conduct Monteverdi’s ‘Beatus Vir’ which was performed at their inaugural concert. After David left in 1984, Colin Marston became not only St Andrews choirmaster, but the new Director of Penrith Singers – a post he held for over 30 years! Colin was also present and he conducted ‘Song for Athene’ by John Tavener, also sung at Colin’s final concert in 2015. Special mention must be made of Heather Thomlinson, the Assistant Director of music for many years, who conducted Mozart’s Ave Verum with sensitivity resulting in a beautifully flowing and well balanced performance from the choir.

Since 2015, the Singers Director of Music has been Edward Taylor, Assistant Organist at Carlisle Cathedral, who conducted the remaining items on the programme. Unfortunately, Jordan English who was to have played the organ was indisposed. His place was taken at two days’ notice by Kris Thomsett, Assistant organist at Newcastle Cathedral, who played the accompanied pieces with clarity and sensitivity. Kris was unfamiliar with a couple of items and Edward Taylor then transferred to the organ with the choir direction being assigned to another guest conductor, Jonathon Millican, current Director of Abbey Singers and the Cathedral Voluntary Choir in Carlisle.

The concert consisted of some fourteen pieces, ranging from composers of the 17th to the 20th centuries with texts in English, German, Latin, French and Russian! The performance began with Handel’s anthem for the coronation of George II. The gradual increase in intensity of the organ introduction leads to a choral explosion on the words ‘Zadok the Priest’ – a spine tingling moment at any time, but particularly so on Saturday evening and a wonderful start to this celebration of 40 years of choral singing. Monteverdi’s Beatus Vir conducted by David Wells was measured and nicely sung, just occasionally some entries were slightly less confident. There were many highlights in this concert and one was Helen Southernwood’s solos in Mendelssohn’s ‘Hear my Prayer’. A young soprano with a lovely clear tone and excellent diction – her voice suited the well-known ‘O for the wings of a dove’! Still studying at university, we wish her well in her future career. The choral and organ accompaniment was suitably prayer-full.

‘Lift up your heads’ was the second piece by Handel. From the ‘Messiah’, this chorus is vocally demanding, but the choir coped well and responded to Edward Taylor’s crisp rhythm and precise direction. Prior to the interval, the choir sang ‘The Heavens are telling’ from Joseph Haydn’s oratorio ‘The Creation’. The choir is familiar with this work and it was sung with confidence and energy. For the solo trio, Helen Southernwood was joined by choir members Charles Ritchie (tenor) and Bill Maddams (Bass).

Edward Taylor played the organ for Finzi’s ‘God is gone up with a triumphant shout’. Edward’s bold organ registration for the initial fanfare set the mood and under Jonathon’s able and enthusiastic direction the choir sang with confidence and conviction the praise of music’s patron, St Cecilia. Interestingly, the words were written by another ‘Edward Taylor’ about 300 years ago!! This piece was another highlight! The item in Russian was Rachmaninov’s Ave Maria from his Vespers, which was unaccompanied. The choir produced some lovely sustained singing and responded to Edward’s change in dynamics to create those wonderful sweeping phrases so typical of this music. Another unaccompanied piece was Tavener’s ‘Song for Athene’ written in 1983. Colin Marston directed the choir and achieved a moving performance of this magical work. All voices produced some lovely sensitive singing.

The final piece in the programme was Hubert Parry’s finest choral work, ‘Blest Pair of Sirens’. Edward Taylor played the organ and he literally pulled out ‘all the stops’ to make this a fitting end to this memorable celebration and the choir rose to the occasion, pulling out all their stops, to give a wonderfully rousing finish.

Special mention must be made of David Kendrew who introduced each of the items clearly and efficiently and kept the evening running smoothly. Also of Vic Watson, who is the only remaining founder member – congratulations! As ever, the Programme notes were very clear and informative.

Congratulations to all the choir and Edward Taylor their current Director for such a memorable concert and also to the former Directors, David Wells and Colin Marston for founding and maintaining Penrith Singers. Best Wishes for the next 40 years!!

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