Archive & Reviews


10th November 2018 .             Karl Jenkins ~ 'The Armed Man' 

Review of the KCS Concert by Mike Barker : Saturday 10th November 2018:

I had the pleasure of attending a recent remembrance concert by the Knaresborough Choral Society joined by the National Festival Orchestra at St. Peter’s Church in Harrogate. I was treated to a varied programme of works. The superb setting of St. Peter’s created just the right tone on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the armistice of WW1.

            The choir started with a rousing and powerful opening in Brahms’ ‘How lovely are thy dwellings’. The tenors were particularly strong here holding the middle harmonies with some lovely moments from the sopranos. The counterpoint in this piece was handled well and there was plenty of light and shade creating contrasting moods. Sensitive accompaniment was supplied by Beryl Pankhurst in this piece and throughout the concert.

We then heard Nimrod by Elgar; a familiar piece but played on organ which didn’t quite hit the mark for me – it is a shame it wasn’t played by the strings that came on later in the concert; that would have provided the delicacy that is required of this piece. Elgar’s setting of Ave Verum followed this which had a lovely sense of stillness and dynamic control. An appropriate mood came next with ‘They shall not grow old’, which was very reflective and sombre with nice moments of rubato and a real meaning felt behind the words.

            The Orchestra played ‘Adagio in G Minor’, normally attributed to Albinoni but actually written by Giazotto from scraps of manuscript he alleged he found. This was a powerful rendition which really captured the neo-Baroque style of the piece with double-dotted notes and sympathy was given to the space with adequate time for echo and resonance. Mendelssohn’s ‘Hear my Prayer’ concluded the first half, of which the second section is the famous ‘O, for the wings of a dove’. The solo line here is more well known as sung by a treble voice, but was sung, as in the original by a soprano. Carmel Wake provided the solo which was well controlled and had a wonderful sense of purity, especially on the top notes which had little vibrato. The choir accompanied the soloist with excellent balance and response.

            The triumph of the evening, in my opinion was in the second half of the concert. ‘The Armed Man’ by Karl Jenkins is a wonderfully evocative and atmospheric piece of music which takes the listener on a journey through war, peace and remembrance and the Choral Society with the Orchestra did just that. The atmospheric start on the snare drum with piccolo set the scene and the choir entered with gusto. The choir sang with energy and  enthusiasm but also had some beautiful sotto voce moments which created wonderful contrasts in mood. The last post, part of one of the movements, played from the rear of the hall and the gentle chorale like ending were played and sung sensitively. It was also lovely to hear the eastern influenced ‘call to prayer’ movement which is all too often omitted from live performances. I was really taken on a journey with this piece and in this time of division it was great to remember that music helps to bring all cultures together in one voice. Thank you to all musicians for making the 100 year anniversary of the armistice a thought provoking, poignant and memorable occasion for me.

19 August 2018                        Feva ~ 'Pack up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag!'

12 May 2018                              HAYDN'S CREATION


1 JULY 2017                  A MUSICAL DOUBLE BILL        

8 APRIL / 9 APRIL 2017                                         BRIAN HOARE'S 'NEW CREATION'

10 DECEMBER 2016                                                    A CHRISTMAS CRACKER















2 JULY 2016                                                                       CARMINA BURANA


19 MARCH 2016                                                                 SPRING CONCERT


12 DECEMBER 2015                                                             THE MESSIAH


27 JUNE 2015                                                 IT'S A GRAND NIGHT FOR SINGING


28 March 2015                                                    Faure Requiem & Choral Classics  

13 DECEMBER 2014                                                            CHRISTMAS FANTASIA

28 JUNE 2014                                                                     BICYCLE BUILT FOR TWO

12 APRIL 2014                                                                       BRAHMS REQUIEM

14 DECEMBER 2013                                                        CHRISTMAS CONCERT


29 JUNE 2013                                                                        SUMMER CONCERT

There’s no canvas too broad for the Knaresborough Choral Society, it seems, as its summer show on 29 June 2013 toured the world in 80 enjoyable minutes – or just over thanks to a late addition and a well-merited encore. Held at the Methodist Church on Gracious Street, the Concert drew in an appreciative audience, suitably impressed with the range and technical difficulty of many of the pieces on offer.

If it was an ambitious plan to sample 21 songs from different parts of the world, it was made more so by the decision to perform in a mixture of tongues – indigenous Australian, Punjabi, Zulu, Swazi, Italian and, it has to be said, Lancastrian too! The concert took us from the vaunting spirals of Cantique de Jean Racine and the majestic canvas of Going Home lyrics set to Dvorak’s New World Symphony, to the great fun of the lullaby Counting up my Toes, Waltzing Matilda and Orpheus in the Underground, which sets the can-can in the subterranean context of stations on the Victoria and Bakerloo lines (among others) on London’s Tube.

Not stopping there, the full repertoire included organ recitals of Bach’s Air from the Suite in D, Trumpet Tune from Purcell and the glorious piano duet of Humoresque by Dvorak. And in a wonderful change of pace there was a spirited rendering of the prose poem Albert and the Lion set in Blackpool. If anyone wondered how this fitted into the idea of a world tour, the answer must surely lay in how Blackpool once existed as an exemplar of exoticism for so many of its visitors.

A great surprise was the Pakistani hymn Blest be God (Rabe Ki Hove) sung to a traditional Punjabi tune. Like the Zulu hymn Marching (Siyahamba) it bore the unmistakable feel of its homeland. Inevitably, this wasn’t the case with others: the aria Ombra mai fu was sung in its original Italian, telling a story set in ancient Persia written by the German-British composer George Frederic Handel, a true polyglot effort. Certainly, the two pieces from the Mikado – A Wandering Minstrel I and Tit-Willow – were welcome perennial favorites, though they only have the haziest connection to Japan.

With such variety on offer there was the risk the concert could seem disjointed and in the first part before the break there were pauses for introductions which could have been dispensed with, and indeed were in the second half. While all the pieces were worthy of performance, the order settled on stuttered in the early part. Thus the concert swung along much better after the break when it built momentum and focus. Also, a route map might have been helpful and the programme notes could have helped by explaining more about where we were and where we were headed. Some of the solo and individual performances were slightly hesitant, due perhaps to nerves.  But this is minor carping and the odd sour note did little to undermine the overall success of the event. Any backward glances were certainly over well before the rousing climax of Orpheus in the Underground.

Above all, the Knaresborough Choral Society’s Summer Concert was great fun and it was clear that the choir enjoyed it as much as the audience, and the experience was all the better for it. Nothing felt stale or over-practiced; if anything the occasional glitch showed the welcome breath of spontaneity.

Summer is the traditional time for travel and the menu was well chosen. The recipe was light, the preparation allowed nothing to boil for too long, the taste was delicate and the service eventually grew to be bright and unfussy. The accompaniment suited the performance, and the changes of pace ensured that each course could be fully appreciated. And in the light and airy spaces of Gracious Street Methodist Church, with the doors wide open on this warm evening, there was a fresh air ambience that matched the occasion. Exactly as ordered!

Nigel Perry.