There were 51 reasons to be cheerful at a concert at Heptonstall Church on Sunday afternoon: 51 enthusiastic singers representing eight choirs from six countries, including the hosts, Hepton Singers, who had shared a weekend of rehearsing, performing and socialising, thanks to GRUNDVIG, a European-funded partnership promoting choral singing across the continent.
Massed like a caveful of black bats splashed with colour, the combined choir filled Heptonstall Church with heavenly, and very worldly, music. The packed and appreciative audience were treated first to a selection of modern songs, one from each of the contributing countries: a vibrant opening from Cyprus, a rich, tender lullaby/war lament from Poland, a bass-led religious gem from Italy, a beautiful,sombre reflection on baby Jesus from Hungary, a spirited romp in the mountains from the Czech Republic, a rich ode to nature from France and two damn fine examples of contemporary British composition from the hosts.
Master of this broad, rather serious, selection was the Heptons’ own David Bartlett, conducting with responsible shoulders and expressive hands, after a weekend of obviously intense and rewarding rehearsals.
It was equally delicious to hear the Heptons on their own again in the second half, under the familiar conducting of Alison West.
This opened with the heart-meltingly beautiful Miserere Mei by Henry Purcell, and included an angelic Palestrina piece and a sweeping, tingle-inducing soundscape called O Lux Beata Trinitas by young composer Kerry Andrew. The final applause was tumultuous and rewarded with a repeat of one of the Heptons’ favourite, Skempton’s Rise Up, My Love, sung by the full European choir.