HBAF: Choirs in the Chapel

Ars Nova Sacra and Glasgow Madrigirls

The beautiful Wainsgate Chapel in Old Town above Hebden Bridge was the perfect venue for this pair of concerts.  The acoustics of the old Baptist church were well suited to voices raised in harmonious song.  The first group, Ars Nova Sacra, from Budapest – sang classical and early music, beautiful and haunting. Something about choral music is deeply spiritual. It can make you feel a common bond with your fellow human beings. Apparently a cat’s purring can help their wounds heal.  I wonder if there is something about song that does the same for people.  Not being able to understand most of the words, being in latin, german, other languages, the sound is almost like meditative chanting, resonating through the listener, accompanying their thoughts. I found my own mind wandering through some of the sadder places it has within it, but with a greater peace, and perspective than usually the case. Perhaps the music trying to help me heal. Apparently they sang works by “Gibbons, Liszt, Gesualdo, Monteverdi, Kodaly and Bartok amongst others”. I forgot to note down the names of the pieces. They started with the very early works, and moved towards the present through the set. All exquisite, and moving.

The sun was blazing outside, making for a wonderful extended break, where people could partake of refreshments, including magnificent home made cakes. Others brought picnics, and found spots of grass among the gravestones. It is a lovely spot, worth a visit even if the church is not open. They are cultivating parts as a wildlife/wildflower habitat, it would be a lovely setting to spend eternity. The choir came out for a well deserved break too, and entertained us with what we think were Hungarian drinking songs, showing that their talents also extended to the profane, and not just the sacred.

That was apparently the first thought of Dave, the organiser, for the title of the concert – The Sacred and The Profane.  The profane being provided by the Glasgow Madrigirls.

This group of young women (and a couple of men) served up a much needed wake-up call, after the ethereal and hypnotising classical sounds of the first choir.  The group, all associated with the University of Glasgow, sang some amazing and powerful Women’s work songs. Harmonies, rounds, all manner of lively game play with their voices. There were love songs, strike songs, songs to keep rhythm. The liveliness of the session was a nice contrast to the serenity of the first half.  There had been a workshop in the morning, and local attendees joined the choir in singing a song or two. All in all great entertainment, in wonderful surroundings.  Wainsgate may be in need of some TLC, which it will hopefully get in the next year or so. But there’s something beautiful even in the pealing plasterwork, contrasting with the ornate marble altar and fabulous organ.  And of course, how could I forget the grinning frogs of the thingumajig theatre that stare down at the players from the balcony. Something unique, and very special.