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Review

Jenkins - The Armed Man
Fanshawe - African Sanctus
Yorkshire Voices (Harrogate Choral Society and Yorkshire Philharmonic Choir)
Leeds Town Hall, 26 September 2009

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Harrogate Choral Society and the Yorkshire Philharmonic Choir as 'Yorkshire Voices' under the direction of Dr Andrew Padmore gave a rousing concert at Leeds Town Hall on Saturday 26th September 2009.

The joint choirs performed 'The Armed Man' by Karl Jenkins, and 'African Sanctus' by David Fanshawe, ably supported by Maureen Brathwaite (Soprano), The Backbeat Percussion Quartet led by Simone Robello and the Mighty Zulu Nation Dancers.

'The Armed Man - A Mass For Peace' was composed in response to a commission from the Royal Armouries to commemorate the new millennium. The introduction of the piece saw the choir marching on mass, a very effective and evocative start to the concert before the sound of massed voices delivered the opening 'Homme Arme'. This was followed by the powerful and atmospheric Muslim Call to Prayers delivered by Ammar Almaghrabi (Muezzin) from Saudi Arabia who is currently studying for his Ph.D at Bradford University. The choir delivered a very competent and rousing performance of the mass and although I would have preferred to hear them supported by full orchestra, the Yorkshire Voices Instrumental Ensemble did a sterling job of accompanying the work. As usual Andrew Padmore made sure that every attention to detail was observed. The choir responded well to his direction, and were let down only by some poor cello intonation in the difficult but well known 'Benedictus' movement. The work concluded with the choir singing the beautiful setting of words from The Revelation to John a moving and well controlled end to the first half.

The 'African Sanctus' by Fanshawe is a combination of traditional mass juxtaposed with recordings of traditional African music completed by Fanshawe over thirty years ago. The simple driving force of the piece is one of Praise and a firm belief in One Music - One God. To this end, the second half of the concert saw the choir change their traditional concert dress to the bright colours associated with Africa, and saw Andrew Padmore wear a traditional African smock. I felt that the choir had been waiting for this point in the programme all night, and their enthusiasm for this work was evident from the first note. The rousing and joyful opening, masses of percussion from Backbeat and the Mighty Zulu Nation Dancers, who all wearing traditional dress, appeared through the audience and onto the stage to perform their famous 'Bwala' dance. The audience were immediately drawn in to a true celebration, and the rhythm and exuberance of the performance was absolutely contagious. I have attended a number of concerts given by the choir this year, but I have to say that they surpassed themselves on this occasion and made my first live experience of this work a really memorable one. The rest of the audience obviously felt the same and it almost turned into a party at the end of the work, when the choir delivered an encore and a number of the audience including children were encouraged to join the dancers on stage. This was a great performance and I was impressed by Andrew Padmore's command of the many diverse aspects of the performance and equally, the way that the choir responded to his direction. This evening made it clear why there is no substitute for live choral music, especially when delivered by the Harrogate Choral Society, the Yorkshire Philharmonic Choir and Andrew Padmore. Thank you.

Nick Garside