Wakefield Cathedral was filled to capacity to enjoy the final concert of the YPC's 2016/17 Season. The selected music proved to be the perfect choice for a Summer's evening with the first half featuring the melodic grace and harmonic mastery of John Rutter and the entire second half being devoted to the unique gentle and beautiful style of Gabriel Faure.
The choir began by showcasing 3 of John Rutter's well know short arrangements: "I will sing with the Spirit', All things Bright and Beautiful' and 'For the Beauty of the Earth'. Immediately recognisable words and sentiments which the audience received with smiles, nods of approval and rapturous applause.
This led straight on to the major work of the half: 'Mass of the Children' and, resplendent in the green blazers and plaid accessories the YPC were joined by the Silcoates School Children's Choir. Unlike many works which involve a 'Junior choir' as a limited solo addition, John Rutter fully integrates the Children's choir, interweaving texture and beauty between all the component parts of Adult & Children's Choirs, orchestra, vocal and instrumental soloists to create a truly unique work of sumptuous beauty but sometimes extreme musical challenge. Right from the off, which featured the Silcoates choir stating the initial theme taken from Thomas Ken's old poem 'Awake my heart and with the Sun....' the audience were aware they were about to experience something very special.
Christina Jones (Soprano) and James Jenkins (Baritone) both formerly closely associated with Wakefield and now making their careers in professional music, brought just the right touch of gentleness and culture to the interspersed solo sections within the work which concludes peacefully with a tricky yet fitting juxtaposition of Tallis' Canon (Glory be to the, my God), sung by the Children, over the qentle fugue-like setting of the words 'Dona Nobis Pacem' (Lord, give us peace). After a dignified silence, the Cathedral erupted into an ovation richly deserved by all involved, which included applause, stamping and standing.
The second half began with the YPC presenting Faure's 'Cantique de Jean Racine', sung in French. This is a timeless work which won Faure a music competition. The YPC has featured it many times on its near continent tours, where, as a work, it is a favourite at weddings, and therefore holds memories of that special day to many in those audiences. Not as well known in the UK, it's simplicity and beauty immediately drew the audience back from their interval relaxation, especially as the choir added real engagement by discarding copies and singing from memory.
With Christina and James returning with maestro Andrew Padmore the choir and orchestra moves into the dramatic opening of Faure's world famous 'Requiem'. The work has been called 'a lullaby of death' being interpreted as 'a joyful deliverance rather than a painful experience' and focusing on a God whose name is synonymous with 'Love'. Faure uses immense melodic phrases often with tenor voices taking the lead with the strong tenor section of the YPC having no difficulty in fully expressing the heights and depths of emotion within the music.
The 'Pie Jesu' is written as a soprano solo and Christina's stunning voice matched the mood of the prayer setting completely, soaring effortlessly over the melodic line. Similarly James in the Baritone Solo within the 'Libera Me' sang with a rich tonal quality allowing the expression and pathos so required of the text to be brought out magnificently.
Mention must be made of the superb playing of Thomas Moore at the organ and the entire Amici ensemble, the composition of which changed considerably during the interval with the addition of strings and others for the Faure from the more intimate scoring required in the Rutter work. Every player was at their best and the sensitive interpretation of the various works was second to none.
The final applause led to an encore, again sung from memory but this time with the Silcoates Children's Choir joining the YPC and Amici in John Rutter's 'The Lord Bless You and keep You', a fitting end to what audience members described as an evening of 'the most sublime music.'