Review: Cantores Olicanae – Summer Concert, St Margaret’s Church, Ilkley, Saturday, June 15 2024

CANTORES Olicanae have come to the end of their first season with their new musical director – James Savage-Handford. There have been some real highlights this year in which the choir has been fully justified in choosing more challenging music to sing and I have described them as being much improved.

However this concert started shakily with the Kyrie of Bob Chilcott’s A Little Jazz Mass and it was not until the Gloria that the jazz rhythms became clear and the choir began to enjoy themselves. The chilled homophonic setting of the Sanctus was well done and the contrapuntal entries in the Benedictus came off well. The final Agnus Dei with its more complex structure was a work in progress. There followed four of John Rutter’s Birthday Madrigals, decidedly more challenging pieces but in a similar idiom. Again, those in a simpler style such as Draw on sweet night and My True love hath my heart were sung effectively with good tone and balance between the parts. The scat accompaniment to It was a lover was not completely secure and, although the choir attacked the final Come live with me with great gusto, it lacked rhythmic accuracy.

Things improved greatly after the interval with a performance of jazz pianist, George Shearing’s Songs and Sonnets of William Shakespeare. These delightful settings are each given a unique character but all are much more approachable. The men of the choir gave a good performance of the verse parts of Hey, Ho, the wind and the rain and by the third song – It was a lover – with its infectious rhythm – the whole choir was really enjoying itself! The sopranos and altos beautifully pitched their ‘cuckoos’ in Spring and by the beautiful setting of Who is Sylvia, the whole choir was on top form.

The programme also included pianist, Robert Sudall, in versions of two jazz standards by Duke Ellington and Cole Porter. Ever a sympathetic accompanist for the choir, Robert gave sterling service but I thought it was a pity that he was not supplemented by bass or drums to give extra rhythmic support.

The concert however came to a successful end with a captivating performance of the close harmony version of Billy Joel’s And so it goes in which the choir produced excellent blend and tone – showing what with confidence this group can achieve.