Summer concert duo sees sell-out success

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Knaresborough Choral Society (KCS) and talented youngsters from King James’s School joined forces to celebrate two anniversaries with an ambitious and hugely entertaining summer concert.

The concert formed part of the year-long celebrations of King James’s School’s 400th anniversary. At the same time, it marked the 30th anniversary of the founding of the KCS, and provided a platform on which to show the strong presence of music in Knaresborough.

The summer concert was staged in two parts: a mixture of solos and choral performances before the break, which formed a lighter hors d’oeuvres to the main course after the interval: a spirited rendition of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana.

The tone went from light to something altogether darker and more sophisticated in the second half, and was greatly appreciated by a capacity audience, who occupied every seat in the hall with a few left standing.

Carmina Burana was planned as the annual summer concert of the Knaresborough Choral Society. Needing a percussion section and a children’s choir, they linked with King James’s School and the concert became part of the school’s year-long celebration of its quadricentennial. Pupils and teachers provided support.

As scored by Carl Orff, three professional soloists were required. Soprano Bryony Williams, Tom Morss, tenor, and baritone David Cane, performed with the KCS by permission of the Royal Northern College of Music.

Carmina Burana is a work that has become a staple with choral groups throughout the world, weaving a colourful tapestry of lusty medieval life with all its range and complexity. The songs are believed to have been penned by rebellious monks and scholars between the 11th and 13th centuries and provide an outspoken commentary on love, gluttony, drinking and gambling, as well as satires on the church, a mournful view on the fickleness of life and a welcome to spring and rural pursuits.

They were rediscovered in the early 1800s and 24 of the songs were set to music as scenic cantatas by Carl Orff 80 years ago, since when they have achieved popularity.

The opening and closing of Carmina Burana, O Fortuna, provides the music to cataclysmic moments in a score of films, TV dramas and advertisements.

Sung in medieval Latin and Middle High German, they present their own special demands for diction and accent. To be performed at all required a considerable effort by the Knaresborough choristers in understanding and interpreting the lyrics and delivering their parts with grace and verve. Pupils from King James’s School sang with sweetness and light one of the songs, tempus est iocundum, designed for a children’s choir.

That this work had been attempted at all is testament to the confidence instilled in the KCS since the arrival of its musical director Bob Marsh in January 2013. Membership in the Society has grown to 80, over 60 of who took part in the summer concert, a remarkable number for a town the size of Knaresborough. Bob has infused the Society with desire and ambition, and has helped attract wonderful young soloists from professional circles.

Carmina Burana is scored for piano and a large percussion section. North Yorkshire’s favourite accompanist Beryl Pankhurst was truly outstanding as always, and was ably supported by King James’s School teachers Mike Barker, Rachel Derbyshire and Sam Jackson, and pupils Adam Brown, Georgia Corrin, Ben Munro and Ben Spruce.

The result was a great success.

In the first part of the concert prior to the interval, a number of pupils from the school and the professional soloists were able to show off their abilities: Lauren Windsor sang God Help the Outcasts, Ben Munro played In Time on the piano, Adam Brown sang Rising Early in the Morning and Georgia Corrin played Autumn Leaves on the saxophone. The school choir performed Sing by Barlow and Lloyd-Webber and the KCS opened the proceedings with that ever popular curtain-raiser Zadok the Priest.

Tom Morss sang the Robbie Burns poem Ca’ the yowes tae the knows, Bryony Williams performed Quando m’en vo from La Boheme, and David Cane rendered Aaron Copland’s I bought me a cat.

Knaresborough Choral Society is to mount a workshop as part of the Town’s feva festival on Sunday August 14 with the aim of introducing this work to anyone who would like to come along. Details are available by emailing the KCS on

The next KCS concert will be on December 10 – a Christmas Fantasia.