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From Lithuania with Love

St Mary's Church, Wigton 
27 January 2007

In July 2006 the Wordsworth Singers, ambassadors for music and for Cumbria, toured Latvia and Lithuania. On Saturday, with the generous support of Cumbrian Seafoods, the choir brought to St Mary's Church in Wigton a programme performed for the first time in the Old Church in Zagare, a small town in northern Lithuania.

This was a very special occasion, with a reception, and a concert, and a professional CD recording, taking advantage of the fine acoustic of St Mary's. Music brings people together and this programme brought together music from Germany, Czechoslovakia, Britain and Lithuania, sung in six languages!

Following introductory remarks by Bill Dufton and June Hall of Lithuania Link, the Cumbrian charity which helped to arrange and finance the tour, by James Grossmith, now of Scottish Opera, who directed the music, and by the composer, the choir sang, in Lithuanian, Kristina Vasiliauskaite's motet Blessed Barbora of Zagare. Barbora, beatified in 2005, was the daughter of a 17th century landowner, whose disapproval of her devout Christianity led to her early death. Kristina Vasiliauskaite specialises in composing for voices and her work, commissioned by the Wordsworth Singers and receiving its world premiere on their 2006 tour, is in the great tradition of European Catholic music.

It was followed by the same composer's Missa brevis, an earlier piece, dynamic, precise and textured, by music composed by Brahms and Dvorak and by five English folksongs, in Daryl Runswick's artful arrangements. Sam Hutchings, an exceptional young Scottish pianist, played five pieces from the piano cycle 'On an Overgrown Path' by Janacek.

This choir aims high and, under James Grossmith's direction, achieves a very high standard.

Hugh Thomson

Tudor Glories and Inspirations

St Martin's Church, Brampton
18 November 2006

The Wordsworth Singers were in Brampton on Saturday and a good crowd turned out to see this highly accomplished group.  Under their musical director and organ soloist, Hugh Davies, they did not disappoint.

The programme was of English sacred music of the Tudor period and late romantic and early 20th century music and Brampton church itself provided a wonderfully generous acoustic. The choir as usual was accomplished and committed and made a warm, pure, accurate sound. In the opening Sing Joyfully they did just that – a terrific wall of sound ringing around the church. However the choir took time to warm up and in the early stages I could hear individual voices and too many singers were buried in their copies. But they do sing antiphony well and we were regaled with very rich double choir to-ing and fro-ing with great assurance in pieces by both Gibbons and Stanford.

Vox Dicentis by the Cumbrian Canadian, Edward Naylor, was an excellent discovery to start the second half of the concert and the strong, dominant bass entry to open it belied the small number of singers. There were some extremely beautiful, quiet passages, a particularly magical one in Stanford's Beata Quorum Via. The singers excel in narrative passages, such as in the final 'hymn' by Edmund Spencer set by William Harris – such passages seem to help them communicate to the audience so much better.

Anice Paterson

Tour of Lithuania and Latvia060721cherries

Maza Gilde, Riga
25 July 2006

After hearing the opening bars of The Wordsworth Singers’ performance in Maza Gilde in Riga on 25th July 2006, it was immediately obvious that this was going to be an exciting event.

The choir has a wide dynamic range and sings with a nice, educated sound. The Wordsworth Singers’ soft singing was particularly fine, wonderful singing indeed. The choir displayed precision and a full range of dynamics in Brahms’ Neue Liebesliederwalzer, op. 65 and Fünf Gesänge, op. 104. This was a beautiful performance – well disciplined and with great charm. It was also strengthening the ties between our countries, introducing new music to Latvians.

The part of the concert with music by Dvořák was an emotional one for me, although I found out later that I was not alone. Aside from the highly charged emotions, the sound and evenness which all choirs try to achieve, together with singing from the heart, made for pure magic. It was a pleasure to create friendship with The Wordsworth Singers and we hope to see this wonderful choir in Riga again one day.

Gunta Malēvica
Conductor of Riga Chamber Choir

Comments from audience and sponsors:

“A great honour and privilege [to host the Wordsworth Singers’ visit], of benefit not only to us but to the people of other cities and towns of Lithuania as well as other countries. … Your visit and wonderful performances will remain in everybody’s minds and memories.”

“The quality of the choir …is really top notch.”

“You clearly enjoyed a warm, heartfelt and richly deserved reception from your audiences, and triumphantly carried out a truly remarkable cultural project which will have made an unimaginable impact.”

Songs of Love and Longing

Penrith Methodist Church
27 May 2006

The Wordsworth Singers are off on tour to Lithuania shortly and we were treated to some of the repertoire they are taking with them.

It was a challenging programme, most of it a capella in Czech and German, and it came off splendidly. The choir musically danced their way through the centrepiece of the luscious Brahms Liebeslieder waltzes. They gave us a wide range of expressive qualities, though a few entries and the balance suffered a bit from having no conductor out front. The piano accompaniments, plus the well-chosen Slavonic dance piano duet interludes from Ian Ryan and Michael Bawtree, were light and flexibly played with energy.

This fine choir is improving every time I hear them and having a new and up-and-coming musical director, James Grossmith, is clearly having benefits. A colleague of his, Michael Bawtree, directed the choir on this occasion with clarity and precision.

The only thing I missed was a stronger, earthier tone quality for the first set of Dvorak songs - they were a bit too sweet and English for my taste. But then, their gusto and humour in the refreshing English folksongs that finished the programme couldn't have been bettered.

Anice Paterson