Past Concerts

Some comments from recent performances:

2019:23rd March Carlisle Cathedral
Haydn - The Seven Last Words of Christ, Mozart - Requiem


Carlisle Cathedral was the venue for Cumbria Rural Choirs’ 2019 concert, which featured two of the finest pieces of church music of the end of the 18th century – Haydn’s The Seven Last Words of Christ and Mozart’s Requiem. A large audience enjoyed a well-presented concert in which the choir of over 100 voices was joined by four excellent soloists and the equally impressive British Sinfonietta.


Haydn’s Seven Last Words, written for Cadiz Cathedral in 1787, is a sombre work. Its seven movements, all but one prefaced by a simple choral chant (accompanied by Ian Pattinson on a chamber organ), are outwardly similar in nature and were intended for liturgical use with readings and homilies between each movement. Haydn makes this more approachable in a non-liturgical context by the constant interplay of soloists and chorus, the variety and ingenuity of the orchestral textures and the use of both harmonic and imitative writing for choir; there are some striking and effective dynamics contrasts throughout. From the start there was much evidence of careful preparation as the choir showed a sure sense of phrasing – refined and sensitive, with good control of the contrasting dynamics that each movement offered. By the 1780s the symphony orchestra was becoming established much as today with the recent addition of clarinets and trombones. Here too we had a contra-bassoon added to the texture, particularly effective in the introduction to the 5th movement, entirely written for wind instruments – a dark and remarkable sound. The orchestra was also to the fore in the dramatic opening overture and the concluding “Earthquake”, where, despite the addition of chorus, Haydn’s writing was very much in their favour.


Mozart’s Requiem (1791) offered more familiar territory. Last sung by the Rural Choirs in 1998, this great final work of Mozart was given a performance of authenticity and style. After a serene and spacious opening, the fugal section of the opening chorus was sung with precision and purpose. A thrilling Dies Irae followed and the succeeding quartet, Tuba Mirum, gave the four soloists, Susanna Fairbairn (soprano), Katie Bray (alto), Paul Smy (tenor) and Andrew Slater (bass), the opportunity to show their individual skills – the opening dialogue between bass and trombone was one of the highlights of the evening. Beautifully-phrased quiet singing from sopranos and altos in Confutatis maledictis was matched by the whole choir in Hostias et preces tibi and the passionate, tender Lachrymosa was another real highlight. The Requiem offers challenges to choirs in picking up the exact speed of each movement, but the beginning of Domine Jesu was the only time this was apparent – the changes of time in both the Sanctus and Benedictus were accomplished with ease. The Benedictus also offered some uplifting moments in the majestic dialogue between soloists and wind instruments. The choir was on excellent form, the sound was well-balanced, and the whole performance evidence of the quality and detail of preparation by Ian Wright (chorus-master of Cumbria Rural Choirs) and the directors of the various participating choirs.


John Butt (this year’s guest conductor) clearly had a very strong imprint on the style and authenticity of the performance and deserves much credit for fashioning such a satisfying, and much appreciated, concert, which showed that the English choral tradition is still in good heart.

Colin Marston


2018: 17th March St AndrewsChurch Penrith

Vaughan Williams - Dona Nobis Pacem, Jenkins - Requiem



Celebrating Peace was the title of Cumbria Rural Choirs 2018 concert, which took place in St. Andrew’s Church in Penrith. In this commemoration of the end of the First World War a century ago the main works were Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem (1936) and Karl Jenkins’ Requiem (2005). These two very different works share a common theme of acknowledging the suffering that war involves: Vaughan Williams also acknowledges heroism and the satisfaction of victory. Both are encased in traditional Latin text – the soprano soloist pleading for peace at the beginning and end of the Vaughan Williams work and the Karl Jenkins piece using some of the traditional movements of the Requiem Mass. Both incorporate poems which emphasise the dangers and suffering of war: the baritone soloist in the Vaughan Williams work uses the powerful words of the American poet, Walt Whitman, and the Requiem interjects Japanese death poems into the tapestry of traditional words.
Vaughan Williams grew increasingly conscious of the growing threat in Europe during the 1930s and the opening of Dona Nobis Pacem offers immediate evidence of this as the soprano soloist’s gentle plea for peace becomes a full-throated demand from the chorus. The demanding textures and contrasts of Beat, beat! Drums were conveyed well in a movement of power and urgency, and the choir was equally at home in the spacious, undulating harmonies of Walt Whitman’s Dirge for Two Veterans. Paul im Thurn was an excellent baritone soloist in the other Whitman poems, singing with authority and clear diction, and the choir made the most of Vaughan Williams’ skilful choral writing in the powerful build-up in the final movement. As the soprano soloist made a last gentle plea for peace, there was the realisation that this was a well-prepared and sensitive performance of a challenging and rarely-heard piece (last sung by Cumbria Rural Choirs almost forty years ago).
The choir of North Lakes School (Penrith) has appeared often on the public stage and their confident singing of Sharon Durant’s song In Flanders Field, under the direction of Martyn Soulsby, gave them a memorable opportunity to sing with a professional orchestra. Other younger singers from the recently-formed CRC Young Voices featured in David Fanshawe’s Dona Nobis Pacem from his African Sanctus (1994). Charlotte Jackson, who has done much valuable work in training young voices in Cumbria, was a sensitive soloist in this short and moving work.
The choice of Karl Jenkins’ Requiem for the final item of this commemorative concert was a courageous one. For much of the work Jenkins employs traditional choral textures – the beautifully-sung Introit with its haunting horn motif is a good example. The unaccompanied opening section of the Confutatis, the Lachrymosa and the lovely top notes and phrasing from sopranos in the final In Paradisum were also real highlights. A little less assurance was shown in the Dies Irae, where the choral writing is less sympathetic and the choir had to compete with the percussive, incessant rhythms of a powerful orchestral texture. Japanese drums and the ancient Japanese wind instrument, the shakuhachi, brought a feeling of authenticity to the five haiku death songs, Now as a Spirit being particularly mesmeric both in its writing for ladies voices and instrumental effects. Equally effective was the combination of haiku poems (sung by ladies) with the traditional words of the Benedictus and Agnus Dei (sung by men). Despite some moments of uncertainty in the haiku poems, this was a successful performance of such a varied work and was a great credit to the choir and those involved in preparing them.
The excellent playing of the British Sinfonietta, a young professional orchestra well-versed in accompanying choral concerts, was a major feature of the evening. The percussion section was particularly outstanding in the Requiem. Two experienced local singers, Charlotte Jackson and Paul im Thurn, were reliable as ever in their role as soloists and Ian Pattinson (Lancaster Priory) was organist in the first half of the programme. Despite chilling temperatures outside and the increasing threat of snow, there was a large audience, and Ian Wright, chorus-master of Cumbria Rural Choirs and conductor for this special concert, could feel well pleased at the way in which choir, soloists and orchestra worked together to produce a concert of such quality.

Colin Marston

2017: 1st April - Rossini - Stabat Mater and Puccini - Messa di Gloria


This year’s Cumbria Rural Choirs’ concert was full of contrasts and surprises. It consisted of sacred works by two composers who are much better known for writing operas. One is an early work; the other written late in life.

Giochino Antonio Rossini wrote his Stabat Mater after hearing the setting composed by the Renaissance composer Giovanni Battista Pergolesi. He was by then an established composer having written thirty nine operas in nineteen years. He wrote little after Stabat Mater except for the Petite Messe Solennelle. In both the mass and in this Stabat Mater he showed his talent for jaunty, memorable tunes. The tenor’s aria started with a dramatic and solemn introduction but moved into a really rollicking tune despite its dolorous subject, which made the listener want to sing along!

The Stabat Mater started with a rising theme in the cellos and bassoons and this returned at the end to round off the work in the Amen. The chorus started with the rising theme from the basses, followed by tenors, then altos, then sopranos. The choir, trained by chorus master Ian Wright, sounded confident and the voices were well balanced and blended, a good start to what turned out to be a most satisfying performance. There were several passages when the choir was unaccompanied and carried this off with aplomb, maintaining the line and pitch of the music and the blend of voices. The final fugue was exciting with the entries from the different voices coming in clearly despite the headlong speed.

Among the quartet of soloists, both soprano Sarah Power and tenor Luke Sinclair achieved the difficult task of singing upbeat, even cheerful, tunes to sober words while convincingly conveying the meaning of the words. Bass Andrew Mahon, who memorably sang Elijah with this choir two years ago, had the required gravity for the more solemn setting of the Eia Mater, with some truly tender singing from the chorus at “in amando”. Mezzo soprano Emma Watkinson sang the gorgeous Cavatina with great simplicity and pathos, with elegant accompanying from horns and clarinets.
In the second half, we heard Messa di Gloria by Giocomo Puccini, an early work written when the composer was a music student. His family had intended him to be a church musician but he became more interested in opera after he graduated. A charming and serene Kyrie eleison led into a more urgent Christe eleison. Then followed two more substantial sections: the Gloria, with an opening theme full of joy which returned as a refrain; and the Credo with long smooth unison lines from the choir. There was bright playing from the trumpets of the Gloria tune against the Amen from the choir. The arias were only for the tenor and bass soloists, including a serene Et incarnatus for tenor. The basses of the choir sang an urgent Crucifixus with horns and trombones. Finally there was a brisk Sanctus, a solo Benedictus, and an Agnus Dei with both soloists with interjections from the choir.

Andrew Padmore returned again as guest conductor, adroitly managing the seemingly impossible task of giving leads and direction to every part of the choir while also controlling the orchestra. The orchestra of local musicians was led by Robert Charlesworth. There were some moments of ragged ensemble and intonation problems but it was good to have an orchestra to support the strong sound of the choir. The building, St John’s, London Road, Carlisle, provided a helpfully lofty acoustic.

Cumbria Rural Choirs provided an evening of enjoyable if unfamiliar music for a substantial and appreciative audience. Bravo to all involved! Janet Hornby


2016: 5th March - Jongen Mass and Saint Saens Requiem.



One is so used to going to concerts of familiar music, in fact, choosing the concert because of its familiarity. Tonight's concert was different, but we, the audience,trusted the 'Cumbria Rural Choirs' in their choice of music which they performed at their annual concert, at St. Andrew's Church, Penrith - their 65th concert.

There were two major works in the programme, the first, 'Messe en l'honneur du Saint-Sacrament Mass,' by Belgian composer, Joseph Jongen (1873-1953). The Mass was to be written on the death of his brother in 1943, but meantime, his son was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to Buckenwald. Jongen was, understandably, unable to compose, until his son was freed when American forces liberated the Concentration Camp in March 1945.'What a resurrection!', he exclaimed, and the composition of the Mass began to flow from his pen.

It is set for choir, with a quartet of solo voices, brass ensemble, and organ. The organ begins the work quietly and lyrically, but is shortly interrupted by unaccompanied choir as they sing 'Kyrie eleison'. This dialogue continues, the brass ensemble joining them, until the plea, 'Lord have mercy' dies away, pianissimo. A reflective start to the Mass rather than the more usual declamatory style.

With cantor opening, the 'Gloria' proceeded with the composer making full use of his resources according to the ebb and flow of mood, from choir, organ, and brass together as in,'We praise thee. We bless thee. We glorify thee,' to the bass soloist leading the choir in a soft ' miserere nobis,' 'have mercy.' And how glorious they could all sound as when the brass began, then full choir and organ entered in full force with 'Cum Sancto Spiritu', leading to 'In Gloria Dei Patris,' and the final contrapuntal, 'Amen.'

There  were so many gems in the music, as in the 'Credo,' where a  choral like passage from the trombones and tuba lead to unaccompanied voices singing, 'et incarnatus est' - magical. The 'Crucifixus' from the choir straining against the 'whaling'on the brass, and the contrapuntal entries celebrating the joy of 'et resurrexit' - 'He is risen!' - were so effective .A brass fanfare was notable leading to the 'Sanctus', the choir responding with 'Holy, Holy, Holy', and then the brass in full flow with 'Hosanna!' The quartet of soloists came into their own in the ' Benedictus' and in the 'Agnus dei' closing with a pianissimo 'pacem.'

A new composer for most of us, a new work, with all credit due to the choir, soloists, Borders Brass, and not least, their conductor, Victoria Ely, guiding the performers through every twist and turn the piece demands.


In order to succeed in performance, the choir needs an accomplished organist to accompany them. Such an organist is Ian Hare who played a short piece, a Fantasia, by the composer of the Mass that was to follow, Saint Saens (1835 - 1921). He was famous for his organ playing, and among his compositions is the well known 'Organ Symphony'. Unlike that piece, however, the 'Requiem' is rarely performed. Composed in the white heat of inspiration, in just 8 days in1878 in memory of a friend, it cast a shadow over Saint Saens' life. Six days after the first performance his 2yr old son fell from a fourth floor window and died, and a little later, his other son, a baby of 6 months, fell ill and died.

Written for choir, four soloists, and organ accompaniment, the opening 'Requiem aeternam' begins as it will continue to do, constantly involving all these forces as it moves into our second quiet 'Kyrie eleison' of the evening! So into the more animated 'Dies Irae,'the organ heralding 'The trumpet, scattering its awful sound,' and bringing out an equally powerful unison response from the choir. The 'Rex Tremendae majestatus' passage was quite surprising. 'King of awful majesty' was sung not with the expected power of other arrangements, but with such gentleness and serenity, the tenor taking the solo role with the choir.

The four soloists were involved throughout the piece, either individually or in ensemble, and all sang with a clarity that blended with each other, that could take the lead voice, but also, notably in the Jongen Mass, could sink back into the overall texture with choir. Joanna Tomlinson was soprano, Ruth Kiang mezzo, James Savage - Hanford tenor, and James Berry was bass.


As in the Jongen Mass, the quartet sang the 'Benedictus' underpinned by the choir, the parts moving slowly against an agitated repeated phrase on the organ. The final 'Agnus dei' was quite memorable for a 3 note figure 'crying out' in the organ introduction, which then developed with a falling note increasing the poignancy as the choir sang 'Lamb of God, have mercy on us'. The figure then relaxed into a descending scale with the closing 'dona nobis pacem', and all was at rest.

How the choir rose to the challenge of these two demanding works! Clearly, they had every confidence in their conductor and accompanist. And the audience couldn't sit back and listen lazily as with music they know well. Their listening skills were challenged also, helped by lots of detail given in the excellent programme.


2015: 21st March - Mendelssohn's - Elijah.



For only the third time in their 74 year history Cumbria Rural Choirs chose Mendelssohn’s Elijah for their annual concert, held in a new venue (St. John’s Church, Carlisle) and trained by a new Chorus Director (Victoria Ely).


Elijah is one of the greatest oratorios of the 19th century and it was first performed to great acclaim in the Birmingham Festival of 1846 by a choir of 271 voices and an orchestra of 125. Resources for the Carlisle concert were scarcely a third of those of 1846 but choir and orchestra produced a splendid sound in what was a very good concert.


Central to the success of any performance of Elijah is the casting of the title role. The Canadian bass-baritone Andrew Mahon was a quite outstanding Elijah. In the solo recitative that begins the work he immediately imposed a powerful and authoritative personality on the evening and this sense of purpose was evident in the striking challenges and defiance he offered as the work proceeded. There were also moments of quieter reflection, as in the air “Lord God of Israel”, sung with beautiful phrasing and effective contrasts of dynamics. Trystan Griffiths gave ample evidence of why he was named the “Voice of Wales” in 2012 in a powerful and particularly sensitive performance of the great tenor air “If with all your hearts ye truly seek him” while Helen Bruce (contralto) offered sympathy and tenderness in “O rest in the Lord” and Vanessa Bowers (soprano) displayed strength and inspiration in the air “Hear ye, Israel” at the beginning of the second half of the work. These four excellent soloists blended together sensitively in the two quartets which Mendelssohn included in the work.


Elijah is a very big sing for any choir: the compensation is that, particularly in the second half, there is a succession of choruses that are both varied and hugely rewarding to sing. The choir’s capabilities were shown in the dramatic contrasts of the early chorus “Yet did the Lord see it not”, and, though occasionally struggling against Mendelssohn’s symphonic orchestral textures in the great Baal choruses, produced a rousing “Thanks be to God” to end the first half. The choir really came into its own in the second half, with some incisive singing of the chorus “Be not afraid”, the well-controlled and reflective “He that shall endure to the end” and a joyful, unflagging final chorus, marked by some splendid soprano high notes.


Yet probably the highlight of the choruses was “Holy, holy, holy is God the Lord” in which the choir was joined by Amabile Girls’ Choir from Kendal. Here double choir is used to create a texture of immense dignity and spaciousness and it was a pleasure to hear this chorus sung in the way that Mendelssohn intended. A little earlier, Amabile (whose musical director is Rachel Little) had delighted the audience with the beautifully-phrased and well-enunciated Trio “Lift thine eyes” and Laura Wilson, a member of the choir, had sung the role of The Youth with great conviction and some confident high notes.


For the first time an orchestra of local musicians was used to accompany the concert. Despite one or two ragged moments in negotiating speed changes between movements, they acquitted themselves most creditably, supplying a strong support to the chorus writing and offering some more delicate colours in the quieter writing (the cello solo in Elijah’s air “It is enough” a particular joy).


Andrew Padmore, making his second appearance with the choir as guest conductor, controlled the large choral and orchestral resources with great skill and constant awareness of both the dramatic and the reflective aspects of the work.


Colin Marston


2014: 15th March - Bernstein's -Chichester Psalms, Hare -'Sing to us you hills and valleys', Goodall - Eternal Light.

A Fitting Farewell


Since its formation in 1952, Cumbria Rural Choirs annual concert has become a highlight of the Cumbria musical scene. This year’s venue was St. Andrew’s Church in Penrith, a church blessed with excellent acoustics and an open chancel area of ideal size for the choir of just over 100 voices. The concert began with Loving Shepherd of thy Sheep, an attractive short work for choir and organ, sung as a tribute to its composer, Philip Ledger, who died a year ago and was a former president of the choir and conductor of several concerts between 1992 and 2004. More substantial fare followed in the shape of Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms (1965), a work challenging in its use of jazz rhythms, pungent chording and, not least, the decision by its composer to use the Hebrew language (an implicit plea for peace in Israel during a turbulent time in its history). That turbulence is particularly reflected in the aggression of the opening movement, in which the choir, well supported by percussionist Colin Hyson, coped well with Bernstein’s incisive rhythms and crunching harmonies. The other two movements are more reflective. The haunting atmosphere of the setting of Psalm 23 was carefully created by alto soloist Tamsin Jones and underlined well by the choir. The last movement offered some well-controlled quiet singing, though sopranos were occasionally troubled by the wide –ranging intervals and the high notes of the final section. Adrian Self’s splendidly rhythmic organ playing and judicious choice of organ colours were important features of the performance.
Ian Hare has been Chorus Master of Cumbria Rural Choirs for the last 25 years. His Sing to us, ye hills and valleys, commissioned by the choir in 1997 to words by Denny Gaudin, was sung under Ian’s direction to mark his retirement from the post. Sensitively written and deriving its roots from the great English choral tradition of the first half of the last century, this was a most attractive work to listen to, not without challenges (as in the powerful ending) but full also of the sort of warm and spacious choral writing that choirs particularly enjoy. After its performance Margaret Ferriby, chairman of the choir, spoke appreciatively of Ian’s work with the choir and the standards he has nurtured and developed and Ian produced his own “Farewell” (a movement from Schumann’s Waldszenen), played on the piano.

The concert concluded with Eternal Light, a Requiem written in 2008 by Howard Goodall. Following the precedents introduced by Britten and John Rutter, it combines traditional words from the Requiem Mass with biblical texts in Latin (here from the Book of Revelation, set in a quick plainsong chant style) and poetry about war and death. At its heart it has a reassuring, warm setting of Newman’s great hymn,” Lead ,kindly light”, which reappears in a coalescence of all the main elements of the work in the final In Paradisum. Charlotte Jackson (soprano), Chris Hardman (tenor) and Paul im Thurn (baritone) were three excellent soloists, each entrusted with solo movements to which the choir added a sympathetic background. The highlight of these perhaps was Paul im Thurn’s singing of Mary Elizabeth Freye’s poem “Do not stand at my grave and weep” over a beautifully-shaped choir backdrop using the traditional words of the Lacrymosa. Equally effective was the chilling and relentless build-up of the Dies Irae, here combined with John McRae’s evocative war poem, “In Flanders Fields the poppies grow”.
Nigel Perrin, one of the choir’s regular guest conductors, was well supported by three accomplished instrumentalists, Cilla Grant (piano), Adrian Self (organ) and Ewelina Brzozowska (harp).
Next year’s concert will be Mendelssohn’s Elijah in Carlisle on March 21st, which on the evidence of this concert should be an event to savour.

Colin Marston


2013: Chilcott Salisbury Vespers and Rutter Gloria 9th March in Carlisle Cathedral



A Feast of Choral Music
Cumbria Rural Choirs were joined by Abbey Singers, choristers from Carlisle Cathedral and brass and percussion from the Manchester Camerata for a feast of music for voices and brass in their annual concert, held in Carlisle Cathedral.

David Willcocks’ Sing!, a choral arrangement of Widor’s famous toccata, gave the concert an invigorating start. Ian Hare’s splendidly rhythmic organ playing supplied an inspiring background to a full-blooded contribution from choir and brass. John Rutter’s Gloria, written for the same resources, was a much greater challenge for the choir. The incisive brass writing, reminiscent of Walton, sometimes overwhelmed the choral sound and occasionally the singers were outfaced by the rhythmic demands that Rutter sets, but the overall effect was stunning. The middle movement with its haunting start and impressive climax was a highlight of the performance as was the powerful final “Amen”. Each of the additional groups of performers also had an opportunity to show their skills. Abbey Singers, under the direction of Jonathan Millican, produced a highly atmospheric performance of Eric Whitacre’s Sleep with spacious textures and a beautifully-controlled final diminuendo. Carlisle Cathedral Choristers, under the direction of Jeremy Suter, coped well with the difficult rhythms and intervals of Britten’s Missa Brevis, the Agnus Dei being particularly dark and dramatic, while the Camerata Brass produced a lively performance of Chris Hazell’s Three Brass Cats.

Few in the audience would have had the opportunity of hearing the final work, Bob Chilcott’s Salisbury Vespers. First performed in Salisbury Cathedral in 2009, it combines settings of the traditional Vespers psalms with anonymous early texts and words from the Sarum Primer of 1516. As in some of Britten’s choral works, the different resources are used individually and in combination to create a coherent and unified whole, and to produce a contemporary work of great merit. The Vespers begin with a powerful psalm invocation from full choir; there are four sensitively-written motets, several psalm settings, a wonderfully warm setting of the medieval hymn Vexilla Regis and a splendid final Magnificat, in which each group contributes in turn and then together to create an inspiring climax. Abbey Singers, as “chamber choir”, had some of the most difficult and challenging music: despite one or two tentative entries they coped well with the complexities of chording required. The “children’s choir” of choristers sang with the purity of sound that young voices can achieve and the main choral body of more than 100 singers tackled the syncopated rhythms strongly and produced some confident unaccompanied singing in the quieter sections.

Bob Chilcott, as conductor as well as composer, is to be congratulated on the concept and the performance of the Salisbury Vespers, which he controlled with a real rhythmic drive and sensitivity. Ian Hare, too, must take great credit for his training of Cumbria Rural Choirs in such an enterprising programme, and for the peerless skill of his organ accompaniment throughout the evening.
Colin Marston


2012: Messiah Come and Sing Concert in St Cuthberts's October 20th





Rural Choirs Concert was an Absolute Joy

I am writing to express my absolute delight at a concert I was taken to in Carlisle St Cuthbert's Church on Saturday. It was a most outstanding rendition of Messiah by the rural choirs. You are indeed lucky to have such outstanding talent. A standing ovation was well deserved for all members of the choir and soloists. It was truly uplifting.

Thank you Carlisle

Agnes Wood - Beech Grove Cirencester







2012: Brahms Requiem and Handel Coronation Anthems


Uplifting Brahms Requiem

Brahms and Handel were the main composers featured in Cumbria Rural Choirs’ annual concert, held in St. Cuthbert’s Church, Carlisle. The choir of 120 voices, mainly consisting of members of Keswick Choral Society, Penrith’s Ullswater Choir and Wigton Choral Society, were in resounding voice in a challenging programme, under the expert direction of guest conductor Andrew Padmore.


The concert began with a short anthem, Christ be with me, written by the choir’s chorus master, Ian Hare, in memory of a former chairman, Patrick Short, who died tragically in a road accident in 2010. The attractive chordal writing for choir with occasional harmonic quirks for organ, inspired by Messiaen, presented a promising aperitif to the main substance of the programme.

Handel’s Coronation Anthems Zadok the Priest and The King shall rejoice will no doubt get many outings during the Diamond Jubilee Year but may not always be sung as well as they were on this occasion. Andrew Padmore’s lively tempi, aided by Ian Hare’s impeccably rhythmic organ accompaniment, enabled the choir to demonstrate the joyfulness and majesty so characteristic of these works, and also the precise articulation of Handel’s more intricate writing. That same clarity of articulation and assurance of style was evident in performances of two Handel arias, “Oh! had I Jubal’s lyre” and “Arm, arm ye brave” by the evening’s two soloists, Maxine Taylor (soprano) and Che Seabourne (baritone).


In the 62 years since their foundation Cumbria Rural Choirs had sung Brahms’s A German Requiem on three previous occasions, no doubt in English and with orchestral accompaniment. This performance was different in that it was sung in the original German and with an alternative piano duet accompaniment, approved by Brahms and played with great authority by Cilla Grant and Ian Hare. Any doubts on either score were quickly dispelled by the sensitively controlled dynamics and the spacious climaxes of the opening movement, while the following movement’s “Behold, all flesh is as the grass” was as remorseless and chilling as the invocation “Now therefore be patient” was tender and reassuring. A similar contrast was seen later in “How lovely are thy dwellings fair”, where the beautifully phrased opening was balanced by the decisiveness of the later writing.

The introductory sections of the two movements involving baritone solo were sung with power and authority by Che Seabourne. Each movement ends with a complex fugue, probably the most difficult choral parts of the work. The choir had obviously worked thoroughly on these: moments of uncertainty were rare and the tricky time changes were dealt with assuredly. The alto section’s “Lord, thou art worthy” inspired confidence and the soprano section’s constantly soaring lines only flagged a little as the final movement was reached. Warmth and sensitivity marked the chorale-like textures of the choir’s accompaniment to the soprano soloist’s “And ye therefore have sorrow”, sung with tenderness and a lovely pure tone by Maxine Taylor.

Brahms’s Requiem is a “big sing” for any choir and Cumbria Rural Choirs are to be congratulated on achieving such an uplifting performance, much appreciated by a good-sized audience. Next year’s concert in Carlisle Cathedral on March 9th with music by Bob Chilcott, who will also conduct, and John Rutter is already an event to savour.

Colin Marston


An Archive of all past concerts:


yearWorks performedConductor


Gluck: Orpheus

Cyril Gell


Haydn. The Seasons

Herbert Bargett


Handel. Mirth and Melancholy

John Clements


Handel. The Messiah

Herbert Bargett


Purcell. King Arthur
Vaughan Williams, Towards the Unknown Region

Anthony Hopkins


Bach, Sleepers Awake
Brahms, Song of Destiny
Parry, Pied Piper

Iris Lemare


Bach, St Mathew Passion

David Wilcocks


Stanford, Songs of the Fleet
Parry, Blest Pair of Sirens
Elgar, From the Bavarian Highlands
Armstrong Gibbs, The Highwayman

Herbert Wiseman


Haydn, The Creation

Allan Wicks


Handel, Samson

Allan Wicks


Brahms, requiem

Meredith Davies


Bach, Magificat

Britten, St Nicholas

Allan Wicks


Bach, St Mathew Passion

Meredith Davies


Purcell, Dido and Aeneas
Vaughan Williams, Cotswold Romance

Henry Havergal


Handel, Judas Maccabaeus

Charles Groves


Bach, St Mathew Passion

Dr Chalmers Burns


Mendelssohn, Elijah

Eric Chadwick


Haydn, Nelson Mass
Handel, Chandos Anthem No 6

Eric Chadwick


Verdi, Requiem

Eric Chadwick


Dyson, Canterbury Pilgrims

Marcus Dodd’s


Elgar, The Dream of Gerontius

Charles Groves


Mozart, Requiem
Vaughan Williams, Serenade to Music

Charles Groves


Bach, B Minor Mass

Allan Wicks


Tippett. A Child of our Time
Dvorak, Te Deum

Norman del Mare


Vivaldi, Gloria
Faure, requiem

Meredith Davies


Handel, Israel in Egypt

Eric Chadwick


Bach, St Mathew Passion

Eric Chadwick


Verdi, Requiem

Simon Rattle


Brahms, Requiem and Song of Destiny

Stewart Robertson


Bach, St John Passion

Paul Steinitz


Poulenc, Gloria
Vaughan Williams, Donna Nobis Pacem

Paul Steinitz


Elgar, The Dream of Gerontius

Donald Hunt


Bach, B Minor Mass

Paul Steinitz


Handel, Solomon

Donald Hunt


Elgar, The Kingdom

Donald Hunt


Handel, The Messiah

Hugh Davies


Mendelssohn, St Paul

David Hill


Bernstein, Chichester Psalms
Vaughan Williams, A Sea Symphony

David Hill


Handel, The Messiah

Hugh Davies


Verdi, Requiem

Charles Groves


Haydn, The Creation

Hugh Davies


Rossini, Stabat Mater
Bruckner, Te Deum

James Lockhart


Bach, St Mathew Passion

David Hill


Dvorak, Mass in D
Durufle, Requiem

Philip Ledger


Mendelssohn, Elijah

Donald Hunt


Schultz, Psalm 150
Gabrielli, In Ecclesis
Britten, Rejoice in the Lamb
Kodaly, Missa Brevis

Philip Ledger


Bach, St John Passion

David Hill


Walton, Belshazzar’s Feast
Borodin. Polovtsian dances

Philip Ledger


Haydn, Te Deum
Brahms, Ein Deutsches Requiem

Simon Halsey


Brahms, Ein Deutsches Requiem
Hare, Sing to us

Ian Hare


Bach, Magnificat
Mozart, Requiem

Philip Ledger


Stravinsky, Symphony of Psalms
Orff, Carmina Burana

Philip Ledger


Handel, Coronation Anthems
Beethoven, Mass in C

Philip Ledger


Elgar, The Dream of Gerontius

Donald Hunt


Carter, Benedictine
Taverner, Song for Athene
Haydn, Nelson Mass

Nigel Perrin


Bernstein, Chichester Psalms
Lambert, The Rio Grande
Rodgers arr.Hunt, With a Song in my Heart
Copland, Old American Songs

Donald Hunt


Verdi, Requiem

Philip Ledger


Vaughan Williams, Te Deum in G
D Scarlatti - Stabat Mater
Liszt - Missa Choralis
Stephen Cleobury


Karl Jenkins - The Armed Man
John Rutter - The Mass of the Children
Simon Wright


Rossini - Petite Messe Solonelle Nigel Perrin


Bach - B Minor Mass Simon Halsey


Nielsen - Springtime in Funen
Carter - Te Deum
Britten - St. Nicolas
Simon Wright

Fanshawe - African Sanctus
Hare - Cumbrian Canticle

Simon Halsey and Ian Hare
2011 Parry - I was Glad
Palestrina - Stabat Mater
JS Bach - Singet dem Herrn
John Rutter - Magnificat
Ian Hare

Hare - Christ be with me

GF Handel - Coronation Anthems:

'Zadok the Priest' and 'The King Shall Rejoice'

Brahms - Eine Deutsches Requiem

Andrew Padmore