Saturday 2 January 2003
St Oswald's Church, Horton-in-Ribblesdale
When the Choir of Leeds Parish Church visited Horton-in-Ribblesdale on January 2nd 2003 for their annual North Craven recital, exactly twenty-five years had passed since the first of the series took place in the church of St Michael the Archangel, Kirkby Malham in 1978. Dr Lindley and his choir have helped to brighten for us a potentially rather dark time of the season, each of those twenty-five years with their performances of Christmas and Epiphany music. During this period, these concerts have been held in fifteen different venues (some more than once) as follows: the Parish Churches of Austwick, Burton-in-Lonsdale, Clapham, Giggleswick, High Bentham, Horton-in-Ribblesdale, Ingleton, Hellifield, Kirkby Malham, Langcliffe, Long Preston, Settle and Thornton-in-Lonsdale; and in addition to these, Zion Congregational Church, Settle and Giggleswick School Chapel. Next January, Low Bentham will be added to this list.
Much as we all love the traditional seasonal music, we can sometimes become sated with Christmas music by the conclusion of the festival - dubious arrangements of over-familiar carols blaring out of supermarket loudspeakers from mid-November onwards can be very counterproductive. It is always most refreshing therefore to hear the lesser-known, but always most attractive, examples of Christmas music which Simon Lindley chooses for the North Craven concerts. This year, for instance, in the section 'Texts newborn', we heard completely new settings of 'The Holly and the Ivy' and 'This Endris Night' by, respectively, Stuart
Thompson, formerly organist of St Anne's Cathedral, Leeds, and the distinguished organist and composer, Christopher Rathbone, now resident in Leeds. The contrasting styles of lively syncopations in the first, and quieter reflection in the second of these pieces were projected with conviction by the choir. The programme as a whole included a wide variety of style and mood. The rhythmic vivacity of John Gardner's 'Tomorrow shall be my dancing day' was beautifully caught and then we all had a chance to shine, singing the refrains in John Rutter's popular 'Star Carol'.
Dr Lindley was as erudite, witty and informative as ever in his comments about the music, the texts, the composers and the wider meaning of the Epiphany season itself. I am not sure that we were all completely at one with him over his remarks on opera!
The Epiphany procession of the boys representing the Magi is always moving and this year they entered the church with the choir singing the very expressive 'Cantique de Noel' by Adam. Its romantic style was idiomatically presented with an appropriately warm sound. Accompanied on the organ, as throughout, by James Eaton, the newly-appointed Sub-Organist at Leeds, this splendid recital concluded with all singing the fine Epiphany hymn, 'From the