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Yorkshire, a Northern Powerhouse of choral singing!

‘The best day I have had for many, many years’ was the comment of one of the singers who joined the Yorkshire Philharmonic’s ‘John Rutter Singing Day’ on Saturday, as 400 singers from across Yorkshire were captivated by the talented, convivial and tirelessly enthusiastic John Rutter as he led them in a day of singing beautiful music.

John describes Yorkshire as being ‘a Northern powerhouse of choral singing’ – and the singing in Wakefield on Saturday only served to confirm this assertion! The hall rafters at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School rang as John introduced the singers to music from many centuries, composers and styles.

Accompanied throughout the day by the talented Thomas Moore, Director of Music at Wakefield Cathedral and accompanist of the Yorkshire Philharmonic Choir, the day started with the lovely ‘Amazing Grace’ and Vivaldi ‘Gloria’.

Saturday morning was very wet – but as the last two bars of the ‘Gloria’ were belted out, as demanded by John, amazingly, the sun came out. Clearly, even the heavens were appreciating a bit of Northern ‘soul’.

Having sung in both English and Latin, the next language was Russian. Rachmaninov’s Bogoroditsye Dyevo was a challenge but, once learned, and sung by 400 voices it was as if, as John suggested, we could see the pinnacles and onion domes of Moscow in the very heart of Yorkshire.

If you have ever wondered how a musician actually writes music – which comes first, the inspiration, the words, or the music, then John let us into a secret – it usually starts, he told us, with a phone call, nowadays sometimes an email. ‘Look to the Day’, a very moving and hopeful piece, was written by him at the invitation of Cancer Research UK. Lovely to hear, lovely to sing.

Another piece which started with a phone call was ‘Look at the World’, commissioned by David Dimbleby for the 70thAnniversary of the Council for the Protection of Rural England.

A piece as yet unpublished called ‘Christ our Emmanuel’ was sung with much joy. John is, of course, well known for his carols – sometimes being known as Mr Christmas. John told us that when asked why he writes so many carols, he finds it hard to answer, beyond the fact that once he starts it is hard to stop.

Many more songs were sung, but sadly the day had to end. A very special thank you was given to Thomas (Moore) for his wonderful piano playing, and the day finished with Rutter’s ‘The Lord Bless You and Keep You, with its wonderfully climatic ‘Amen’

400 people came together from all over Yorkshire, many unknown to one another, but they all left as a ‘choir’, becoming that Northern Powerhouse of Choral Music that John believes in, forged by his boundless enthusiasm and personality. A great day, wonderfully well organised by the Yorkshire Philharmonic Choir.

We all know that singing helps the body to release serotonin – sometimes called the ‘happy chemical’ because of its contribution to human wellbeing and happiness. As the singers left at 5.00 on Saturday after a day of song, surely they all left even healthier and happier than at their arrival at 10.00! Perhaps choral singing should be available on prescription?

John gave us a wonderful gift on Saturday, freely and generously giving his time, his talent and his personality to the cause of choral singing. A gift that was gratefully and happily accepted by everyone. Thank you John Rutter.

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