Richmondshire Choral Society showcases first performance of major work

It is not often that a choir in a small market town gets to give a first public performance of a major work.

This Christmas Richmondshire Choral Society will do just that when is showcases a 35-minute cantata by one of own members and believes it could become a favourite with other choirs.

Jubilate Natale was originally composed by Mark Harrison some 25 years ago and given a performance at the school, St Mary’s, Menston, West Yorkshire, where he was then working.

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It was then largely forgotten until he offered three of the movements from it to Richmondshire Choral Society to sing over two of its previous Christmas concerts.

So impressed were the choir’s director and members that they asked to perform the whole work and were surprised to learn that this would be its first full public performance.

The cantata is in eight movements and is written for soprano and baritone soloists, full choir and orchestra. Mr Harrison has rescored much of the orchestral accompaniment to take advantage of the Richmondshire Orchestra’s additional capacity so in some respects this performance can be regarded as a world premiere.

The eight movements follow the Christmas story but not in a strict narrative sense.

The words are in some cases anonymous medieval poems or taken from the Catholic church liturgy, but elsewhere they have been mostly written by Mr Harrison with a some short quotations from other writers.

Starting with the Christmas proclamation of Hodie Christus natus est, the cantata continues with a movement about the fall of Adam followed by the prophecy of the virgin birth in a setting of the medieval poem I sing of a maiden.

The story continues with a lullaby after which there is a lusty song from the shepherds, glory from the angels and the light of the Gentiles appears. The finale is in the best Bach and Britten tradition of bringing the audience in to join the singing.

Richmondshire Choral Society’s music director Edward Seymour says of Jubilate Natale.

“It has been an honour to work with Mark and RCS on Jubilate Natale.

“The work presents the story of Christmas with such variety, colour and drama. We must see and hear this work more often.”

Richmondshire Choral Society gives its concert in St Mary’s Church, Richmond on December 16 and is sure that its audience will enjoy Jubilate Natale as much as the better known works by Bach (Sleepers Wake! BWV140), Schubert (Mass in G) and three well-known carols.

More information about this concert and the choir is at richchoral.org.uk