Skipton Choral Society concert

Christchurch, Skipton

SKIPTON Choral Society gave a performance of Karl Jenkins’ 'The Armed Man' in Christchurch, Skipton.

This has become a very popular work; it is accessible to people who would not normally attend concerts, as well as music lovers, being full of moving drama, exciting rhythms and meltingly beautiful tunes.

As it was a short afternoon concert, it could be attended by all age groups and with its dramatic use of percussion and brass was an exciting and child-friendly occasion.

The choir has a new conductor, Robert Webb, who demanded a high level of concentration and performance from the non-professional and mixed choir.

It did wonderfully well for him; there were just a few rough corners but plenty of exciting dynamics and beautiful sounds.

Robert has a very precise and minimalist way of conducting; choir members needed to watch him carefully – and for the most part they did.

'The Armed Man' is not an easy piece to sing as it is full of tricky rhythms and, for an amateur choir, unusual harmonies as well as some very exposed passages for individual voice parts, which did cause some intonation problems.

On the whole, though, the dynamic build-up and increase of tension was very convincing and the melody lines were mostly pure and true.

The soloists and band deserve a special accolade. The first soloist was a muezzin, Ibrahim Alami, with a wonderfully mellifluous voice, singing the call to prayers in Arabic.

Then Sally Goodman, a member of the choir, sang the soprano solo in the Kyrie with simplicity and calm, giving the gentle melody a grace and seriousness very appropriate to the meaning – “Lord have mercy on us”.

Other soloists emerged from the choir to sing small parts, which they did with confidence and skill, and Sally returned to delight us in later movements.

The band was composed of organ, piano, percussion and brass, with a flautist and cellist. They had to take the place of a full orchestra, so were kept very busy.

They were all excellent players, and their ensemble, particularly between the organ and cello, was superb.

Notably, the cello solo in the Benedictus was played with great sensitivity and understanding of the music and words.

The flautist had several tricky passages, as in the final movement, 'Better is Peace', where her rippling interludes were particularly impressive.

The drums and other percussion gave a strong steady beat and a lot of triumphant noise when required and the trumpets were loud and brash when they needed to be.

The Last Post, however, was played with the seriousness it deserves, after a long period of intense silence.

As a whole this was an impressive and moving performance of music which aims to make us think about the clamour of war and the need for peace. In this it was a triumphant success.

Jane Dobson