Leeds Guild of Singers – Live Review – Holy Trinity Church, Leeds
By Ellie Victor, November 2022
Leading local chamber choir, Leeds Guild of Singers, kicked off its 75th anniversary season in style last Saturday 12 November with a special concert as part of the current “Our Earth, Our City” event. An audience of over 100 packed out Holy Trinity Boar Lane church in the city centre for a programme of reflective choral music on the themes of remembrance and the Earth by the group of thirty singers.
The choir sang music spanning five centuries, as the “Gaia” installation, a realistic 6-metre diameter replica of our planet created by artist Luke Jerram, revolved slowly above them. Musical Director, Benjamin Kirk, now in his second season with the Guild, had put together a thoughtful programme to reflect the timing of the concert and wider environmental event. The whole effect was rather magical.
The centrepiece was the much-loved ‘Requiem’ by Herbert Howells, a complex work for double choir and soloists which LGS rendered with great sensitivity. There was early music by Thomas Tallis and Orlando Lasso, as well as contemporary works by Morten Lauridsen and Eric Whitacre, in which the choir painted a rich soundscape. In light of the ongoing war in Ukraine, the choir performed a work by 18th-century Ukrainian composer Dmitri Bortniansky, ending with a fugue that could almost have been written by Handel.
The audience was also introduced to less well-known pieces ‘Earth Song’ by Frank Ticheli and ‘A Song for the Season of Creation’ by Ian Stephens, which captured the environmental themes perfectly. The achingly beautiful ‘Take Him, Earth for Cherishing’, written by John Tavener in memory of his brother, featured an echo-choir hidden at the back of the church. And as 2022 marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Ralph Vaughan Williams, the concert ended with his moving work ‘Rest’.
As the concert goers enjoyed the lush acoustic of the recently renovated venue and gazed at the spinning globe, they were invited to reflect on the urgent need to act on climate change and protect our planet. During the interval and after the concert, the audience had an opportunity to view a fascinating exhibition of materials on environmental issues set out in the church.
“Stay in the memory”
As the final chord of the concert faded away, it was time to step out of the oasis of calm that Leeds Guild of Singers had created, back into the hustle and bustle of Saturday night in the city centre. Audience feedback described the performance as “gorgeous sound”, “very atmospheric” and “stunningly beautiful”. The sounds and sights of this concert will stay in the memory for a long time.
A proportion of ticket sales went to the climate campaign of Tearfund, a charity which partners with churches in the world’s poorest countries to tackle poverty and injustice through sustainable development.
The “Gaia” installation can be viewed at Holy Trinity church until 26 November (free entry, see gaiaearthleeds.org for details). Leeds Guild of Singers will perform Christmas concerts on 10 & 17 December in northwest Leeds (see leedsguildofsingers.org.uk for details).