St. Peter's Singers
St Peter’s Singers
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In just forty years, St Peter's Singers has become one of England's most acclaimed chamber choirs. A series of special events in celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the foundation of St Peter’s Singers in 1977 unfolds from a lunchtime Concert at Leeds Town Hall with organist David Houlder on Monday 13 February at 1.05 pm.
Rehearsals are held at Leeds Minster every Sunday evening during the Season, and the members of the Singers provide invaluable assistance in the regular presentation of worship at the Minster working closely with and alongside the Choir re-founded by Vicar Hook in 1841.
As a group, the beginnings of St Peter's Singers may be traced back to the foundation by Senior Leeds Lay-clerk Harry Fearnley (1939-2000) in the early months of 1977. By mid-summer that year St Peter's Singers was up and running and giving concerts. Earliest members included Mr Fearnley himself, a number of colleagues and friends from among the adults of the Minster Choir and the West Riding Singers. Additionally, a significant nucleus of younger singers was provided by sixth-formers from Leeds Girls' High School and by undergraduates of the University of Leeds and Leeds College of Music. Leading Yorkshire singing teacher Sybil Chambers (1938-1998) brought many of her own pupils and students into the Singers over the years and herself sustained the role of Principal Soprano with great distinction for a decade or more. Similarly, other leading professional and semi-professional singers of the calibre of principal baritone Quentin Brown have been committed in that role for over a quarter of a century.
Other soloists include Claire Strafford, soprano and Paul Dutton, tenor - both valued regular guests over a very long period. The present solo line-up from within the choir's present or former membership has recently included, additional to Quentin Brown sopranos Kristina James, mezzo Lucy Appleyard and bass Philip Wilcox. Kristina and Lucy are former alumini - and graduates - of Leeds College of Music. Besides her concert work, Lucy is a full-time Choral Director for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Leeds.
Recent "away" concerts by the Singers have included, in 2008, a gala evening in the Quire at York Minster in celebration of the 60th birthday long-serving SPS conductor Dr Simon Lindley, special concerts at Derby and Ely Cathedrals, Evensong at St Paul's Cathedral and Guildford Cathedral as well as recital tours of Romania in 2007, Mallorca in 2009 and 2013 and Brittany in 2011. The most recent Tour saw a visit to Germany and the Netherlands in October 2015.
St Peter's Singers have worked regularly with guest conductors over the years and these have included leading composers Dr Donald Hunt OBE and two Organists Emeritus of York Minster - Mr Philip Moore and Dr Francis Jackson CBE besides the late John Coates, Carleton Etherington (now at Tewkesbury Abbey), Timothy Gray, David Houlder and Jonathan Lilley, the present Director of Music at Waltham Abbey, Essex and here at Leeds between 1996 and 2003.
A recent acclaimed centenary revival featured Sir Arthur Somervell's The Passion of Christ. This performance, and the Town Hall lunchtime concert in February 2014 in commemoration of the Centenary of the First World War - the Great War - entitled We will remember them were each the subject of very favourable critical review in the Church Times.
The Season 2015 began with the Foundling Hospital Anthem and the Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne – both magnificent, yet rarely heard works, being heard at historic Fulneck Moravian Church on Bank Holiday Monday 31 August 2015.
The 2016 Good Friday Concert at Leeds Minster comprised Brahms – Motets and his German Requiem with Soloists Kristina James and Quentin Brown and Vaughan Williams – “The Lark ascending” played by David Greed. The Singers joined in November 2016 with Sheffield Bach Choir in a special performance of Handel’s Israel in Egypt at Sheffield Cathedral on Saturday 12 November at 7.30 pm.
The Singers presented highly praiseworthy accounts of two corner-stones of the double choir unaccompanied repertoire in October 2016 at Leeds Town Hall in the form of accounts of Frank Martin’s Mass for Double Choir and Vaughan Williams’s Mass in G minor. These pieces were very well-received by a large audience.
Special 40th anniversary events this year and during the season 2017/2018 include:
Passiontide Polyphony on the evening of Passion Sunday, 2 April at Thornhill Parish Church, Dewsbury at 7.30 pm
Handel’s Messiah on Good Friday, 14 April, at Leeds Minster at 7.00 pm exactly 275 years on from the first account of the piece in a Dublin concert room in April 1742, with the National Festival Orchestra led by Sally Robinson and soloists Kristina James, Lucy Appleyard, Ranald McCusker and Quentin Brown.
A special 40th Anniversary Concert, including some music sung in the choir’s first concert in Summer 1977, is also at Leeds Minster, on Sunday 25 June at 5.30 pm and the choir visits Holy Trinity, Boar Lane on Saturday 30 September with the complete Handel Coronation Anthems from 1727.
The Fulneck Baroque weekend is marked with Bach’s Cantatas 78 and 147 [Jesu, joy of man’s desiring] along with Handel’s Foundling Hospital Anthem at 4.00 pm on Bank Holiday Monday 28 August at the Moravian Church, Fulneck, Pudsey.
St Peter's Singers acknowledges with gratitude the ongoing support of a number of local individuals and charities, most notably the Charles and Elsie Sykes Trust and the Friends of the Music of Leeds Minster
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