Saturday 18th May 2019 Bolton Abbey Priory Church
Cantores Salicium: The Lily and the Rose
Bolton Abbey Saturday 18 May 2019
There was an air of eager anticipation in the Priory Church, Bolton Abbey on Saturday evening and I for one was intrigued by the title of Cantores Salicium’s latest concert ‘The Lily and the Rose’. My curiosity was soon satisfied following a warm welcome by the Rector, Nicholas Mercer, who explained the symbolism of the paintings on the east wall of the church: five Madonna Lilies refer to the Priory's dedication to St Mary, and the barley, olive, vine, passion flower, rose and palm for the sacraments and other aspects of the life of Christ. After many visits to sing in the Priory Lindy Williams, Musical Director of Cantores Salicium, was inspired to put together a programme of music reflecting this symbolism and this concert was the result.
The first part of the evening comprised unaccompanied music from mainly 15th and 16th century composers, with the audience able to soak up the atmosphere of the priory and focus on the paintings during the opening piece, Francisco Guerrero’s ‘Ave virgo sanctissima’, sung from the tower and containing the words, ‘as lovely as the lily, glistening and perfumed as the rose.’ Lindy then gave a fascinating insight into the composers and their pieces, the second of which was William Byrd’s ‘Ego sum panis vivus’, opening with the pure, clear notes of the sopranos and containing some lovely harmonies. One of my favourite motets of the evening was ‘Sicut lilium inter spinas’ composed in the 15th century by Antonio Brumel. From the altos’ first note to the beautiful blend of voices leading to the hushed tones at the end it was truly spine-tingling. A major leap in time and style came next for Francis Poulenc’s ‘Vinea mea electa’ with its moving lyrics, haunting harmony and darker undertones reflecting the different feel of this piece. Poulenc was a member of ‘Les Six’, a group of young French composers who revolutionised music in the early twentieth century. This contrasted wonderfully with the solo ‘Salve’ that made a big impact at the start of Peter Philips ‘Salve Regina’, with its rhythmical ‘suspiramus’ this piece really built in volume. Departing from the Latin, we were treated to Tchaikovsky’s ‘The Crown of Roses’ sung in Russian. Better known for his ballet music and symphonies, he was one of the most innovative romantic composers. He became disillusioned with contemporary Russian church music, describing it as ‘dismal tripe’, he turned his hand to writing his own religious music. It was interesting to hear the Russian language and the male voices added real depth to this piece. We returned to Peter Philips for the final work of the first half, ‘Surgens Jesus’. This was an uplifting motet which the choir really appeared to enjoy singing. Lindy’s conducting seemed effortless and in her own words there was ‘a joyful alleluia to conclude the work.’
The second part of the evening opened with a musical diversion in the form of Mozart’s Divertimento in D, brought to us by the Wharfe Quartet (Karen Vaughan and Lucy Shepherd, violins; Clare James viola and Vikki Hoodless, cello). This is a newly-formed quartet whose members play with the Wharfedale Chamber Ensemble and their accomplished playing of this elegant quartet was very much enjoyed by an attentive audience; I certainly look forward to hearing more from them in the future. From a piece composed when Mozart was still in his teens, we were then treated to ‘Ave verum corpus’, written in the last year of his life and beautiful in its simplicity, allowing us to appreciate the diction and the dynamics of the singers. Both this, and the final offering of the evening, Haydn’s ‘Missa Sancti Nicolai’ were expertly accompanied by Timothy Raymond, Director of Music at the Priory Church. After the instrumental introduction to the ‘Kyrie’ he was joined by Cheryl Arber and Jo Wulf in a charming duet with the voices of Chris Weston and Phil Simnett later adding their rich tenor and bass voices to complete a quartet. The gentle pastoral feel of the ‘Kyrie’ added another dimension to the evening and the whole of this mass contained some intricate organ passages as well as the wonderful soaring soprano voice of Charlotte Treglown in the ‘Gloria’. Charlotte also performed in the ‘Benedictus’ alongside Jessica Mahler, whose warm alto voice combined well with tenor, Kenn Green and bass, Danny Powell. The choir was in fine voice as the final notes resonated around the priory. Cantores Salicium managed to capture both the sadness and hope of the pieces with the quality of their singing. This is music-making at its best and I would urge you to check their website www.cantores-salicium.org.uk for details of their forthcoming concerts.
Sunday 11th November 2018 Bolton Abbey Priory Church
Cantores Salicium: A Concert for Peace and Remembrance
Bolton Abbey Sunday November 11th 2018
The most recent concert to be given by the exceptional Cantores Salicium, a Long Preston based choir, took place at the Priory Church, Bolton Abbey on Remembrance Sunday, to commemorate the centenary of the Armistice in music and readings. The packed church was suitably decorated with displays of poppies and the silhouette of a Tommy, part of the ‘There but Not There’ installation, provided a constant reminder that this was ‘A Concert for Peace and Remembrance’, an apt title, given the reflective and tranquil start to the programme. Under the skilful direction of Lindy Williams, we were treated to a haunting rendition of Tomas Luis de Victoria’s
Taedet animam meam vitam meae (My Soul is Weary of Life) performed unaccompanied, a speciality of this choir, from the tower. There followed two poems: Ernst Toller’s ‘Marschlied’ (Marching Song) delivered expertly by Anna Wood and ‘Les Morts’ (The Dead) by René Arcos, spoken with great passion by Jessica Mahler. The rhythms and cadences of the German and French poetry contrasted wonderfully with the thought-provoking readings by Gail Jones and Phil Simnett of John Donne’s ‘No man is an island’ and Wilfred Owen’s ‘Strange Meeting’ whose final line, ‘Let us sleep now’ was a lovely link into the Mozart Requiem. Other works in the first part of the concert were Orlando di Lasso’s Justorum animae in manu Dei sunt which opened with the clear and graceful notes of the female voices and the Plainsong: Ego sum resurrectio et vita which appeared effortless in its simplicity due to the quality of the tenor and bass voices.
For Mozart’s Requiem the choir was joined by Camerata Salicium led by Rebecca Howell, a post-graduate student at the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM). Formed in 2017, one of the aims of Camerata Salicium is to provide opportunities for young musicians to play alongside professional and experienced amateur performers. For this concert the young players were Rebecca Stapleton, violin, Ben Buckner, bassoon and Joe Brown, tenor trombone. In addition Harvey Stansfield, a young organ scholar, had accompanied an earlier choir rehearsal and Bill Arber, a year nine pupil from Settle College, had written an article about the Armistice for the programme.
The combined choir and orchestra provided a dramatic opening to the Requiem followed by the soaring notes of soprano Linda Harvey, one of four soloists appearing by kind permission of the RNCM. The orchestra brought a real depth to the performance especially the marvellous trombones and timpani. There were great moments of light and shade, the choir’s clarity of diction enabled them to handle the difficult counterpoint sections with precision. The voices of the quartet, comprising Linda Harvey (soprano) Charlotte Badham (mezzo-soprano), Michael Gibson (tenor) and James Berry (bass) blended beautifully with the strings in the Tuba mirum. The powerful start of Confutatis was offset by the purity of the Sopranos and Altos with the gentle ending leading into the exquisite and perhaps most well-known of the movements, Lacrimosa, the final moments of which were breathtaking, from the lyrics, ‘grant them eternal rest’ to the echo that resonated around the Priory. The soloists really came into their own during the Benedictus and the trombones were truly spine-tingling. With the strong harmonies of the Agnus Dei leading into the last movement, the concert concluded with a magnificent final cadence in the Lux aeterna followed by rapturous applause from an appreciative audience. I felt privileged to have experienced an afternoon of such excellent music and musicianship. Congratulations to all involved.
Saturday 14th May 2016 Bolton Abbey Priory Church
On Saturday (14th May) evening my wife and I, together with an almost packed audience, very much enjoyed the choral and instrumental concert entitled 'Alleluia' staged at Bolton Abbey Priory Church, in aid of local charity Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust, of which I am a Trustee.
The choir, Cantores Salicium, conducted by director Lindy Williams, was quite superb and together with five young instrumentalists, reached extraordinary heights of professionalism in performing a very stimulating and diverse programme.
It included pieces from William Byrd, Henry Purcell and Georg Handel, more modern Japanese and Brazilian works played on a marimba, and a setting of Psalm 121 by the choir's president Nicholas O'Neill.
Entitled 'Levavi oculos', this new composition is the first work to be specially commissioned for the choir. The length of the applause at the conclusion was a testament to their skill.
Surely there can be few more beautiful venues than the Priory for such an event with its magnificent acoustics and inspiring architecture.
I urge that all who have the chance, go and see Cantores Salicium perform, they were fabulous!
Almost £1500 was raised for the charity to support a range of projects that care for the landscape, environment, economy and communities of the Yorkshire Dales.
As published in he Yorkshire Times
CANTORES SALICIUM – Kirkby Malham, Saturday October 18th 2014
The main work in the 'Cantores Salicium' concert last Saturday, October 18th, at St. Michael the Archangel Church, Kirkby Malham, was Mozart's Requiem, the longest and biggest work the choir has tackled to date. This was preceded by a number of works by Victoria, Tallis and Byrd.
This is an excellent choir, characterised throughout the earlier works by an impressively assured technique, a wonderful clarity of tone, great variety of dynamic and immaculate diction. All these qualities were maintained in the Mozart Requiem.
Conductor Lindy Williams adopted generally brisk tempi for the Mozart which maintained the drama of this unique work throughout without ever compromising its more reflective passages.
The solo parts were taken by members of the choir, Lucy Checker, Jo Wulf, who stood in at the last moment for Cheryl Arber in the Domine Jesu, Jessica Mahler, who stood in for Cheryl in the Recordare and the Benedictus at 48 hours’ notice, Phil Andrew, Kenn Green, Chris Weston, Danny Powell and Phil Simnett , all of whom were impressive, combining most effectively in the lyrical parts of the Recordare and the Benedictus.
The choir was joined for the Mozart by organist Nicholas O'Neill, the choir's president, who also delivered an instructive and very entertaining introduction to the work. Recreating orchestral textures on the organ brings unique challenges, met superbly and consistently by O'Neill, who conveyed all the varying colours of the score flawlessly.
November 24th 2013 Giggleswick School Chapel
Morning, noon and night: music for Canonical Hours, Cantores Salicium
24 hours of song were pressed into a little over an hour in Giggleswick School Chapel on Sunday evening. Cantores Salicium performed a programme of music and song that gave an interpretation of the eight services that constituted the Monastic Divine Offices. Inspired by a trip to Fountains Abbey, the programme drew upon many musical styles, ancient and modern. From the plainsong normally associated with monastic life through renaissance polyphony and baroque, to the twentieth century. It was a treat for the ears from the very start, with singers performing a call to prayer using the chapel’s balcony and organ loft to great effect. Highlights for me included Holst’s Nunc Dimitis, Tomas Luis de Victoria’s Missa O quam gloriosum, and organist Jason Lowe’s rendition of J.S. Bach’s Fugue on the Magnificat. The final piece, Thomas Tallis’ In manus tuas, demonstrated how complex, difficult and challenging pre-renaissance music can be, with its many changes of time signature and the choir performed it admirably. This window on the structure of Abbey life made for a very pleasant evening.