The Opera North Chorus – Two Unique Concerts for the Summer

Opera North’s 36 strong chorus will take centre stage this summer, with performances including the early music of Palestrina and William Byrd, as well as Cornelius Cardew and Arvo Pärt.

On 6 June, She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not, an evening of romantic song with piano duet accompaniment will be performed at St Margaret’s Church, Ilkley, and repeated at Salts Mill, Saltaire on 21 June.  The concert begins with selections from Palestrina’s Song of Songs, followed by Brahms’  waltzes and Florent Schmitt’s Chansons à quatre voix: settings of the French composer’s own words (rarely performed) the poetry of Alfred de Musset and ancient Arabic verse. 

The evening continues with a pair of Gesualdo madrigals, then John Bevan Baker’s Songs of Courtship, written for a choir on the Black Isle in the Scottish Highlands.  The jazz of Fats Waller and Cole Porter close the programme.

Leeds Art Gallery’s Tiled Hall will be the setting for the Chorus on 27 and 28 June, in Byrd-Cage: The Shape of Sound, a unique concert which will explore the ability of sound to transform space.  It is part of the first ever Yorkshire Sculpture International Festival and will bring together Byrd, Andrea Gabrieli, Jacob Handl, John Cage and Arvo Pärt.

Opera North told us:  “At the heart of the concert is an excerpt from the revolutionary 1970 work The Great Learning, by the British composer Cornelius Cardew. To begin this piece, each performer chooses a pitch and sings the first line of the text softly eight times, each time for the duration of a breath. Then the ensemble moves around the space, listening to the other singers, until they hear a new pitch of their choice, at which time they sing the second line five times at that pitch. The ensemble progresses through the work in this way, and a cloud of notes gradually forms into several clusters. The audience moves through the space along with the singers, creating an ever-changing, unrepeatable experience in space and sound for both groups.”

Jo Nockels, Head of Projects, Opera North, comments:

“It was quite a challenge to come up with a choral concert as part of a festival of sculpture, responding to the spaces of Leeds Art Gallery. While we might often start with a single artist’s work, in this case we wanted to explore sound as sculptural in itself; three dimensional and occupying space in different ways, with changing relationships to those listening.

Cardew’s Paragraph 7 is a great example of this, with the singers moving through and around the audience, creating a heady sea of sound from which individual voices come into focus and fall away.”

Bookings for all of the performances are via Opera North Box Office on 0113 2233600 or online at

Photograph by Tristram Kenton.  Provided by Opera North.



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