THE Leeds Guild of Singers and the St Peter’s Singers of Leeds performed together on the same stage for the first time in an unusual concert of music for complex choral configurations, writes Geoffrey Mogridge.

Taking place at Leeds Minster on Saturday, February 11, an ingenious programme ranged from Schütz and Buxtehude in the 16th/17th century; through to the 19th with works by Mendelssohn, Rheinberger and Rachmaninoff and into the 20th century with the music of Alfred Schnittke and Arvo Pärt.

Both choirs were conducted by Benjamin Kirk in Mendelssohn’s For he shall give his angels charge over thee. This lovely motet is written for eight-part choir split between upper and lower voices. The Singers followed with Alfred Schnittke’s Three Sacred Hymns. The First Hymn deploys two choirs antiphonally: the second choir uses block chords and develops an intricate eight-part choral texture Heinrich Schütz’ double choir setting of Psalm 100 and the splendid Magnificat, attributed to Dieterich Buxtehude, displayed the dramatic flair of St Peter’s Singers, conducted by Alex Woodrow.

Leeds Guild of Singers and their conductor Benjamin Kirk then revealed the minimalist sound world of the Arvo Pärt Magnificat, in which each syllable is given its own metric time. By way of a marked contrast, Rachmaninoff’s luxuriant Choral Concerto infused a liturgical text with the surging energy of late romanticism.

Leeds Guild of Singers and St Peter’s Singers concluded their invigorating joint concert with Rheinberger’s Mass in E flat, conducted by Alex Woodrow. Although this performance omitted the Credo and Sanctus, there was much else to savour in the contrapuntal writing and antiphonal interplay between two four-part choirs.

In an ideal setting with more room in which to distance groups of singers, the antiphonal effect can be spell binding. Last Saturday’s arrangement of a single body of seventy singers did not quite maximise the effect, at least not from my pew nearer the west end of the nave.