Review: Leeds Guild of Singers at St Margaret’s Church, Ilkley, Saturday, March 2, 2024

The Leeds Guild with their musical director, Benjamin Kirk, brought their programme of Lenten music across six centuries – Lament + Adoration – to Ilkley on Saturday night.

The acoustics of St Margaret's suits this choir – with its excellent blend and accurate singing. In the first half, which consisted largely of music from the late Renaissance, they gave a convincing performance of Thomas Tomkins ‘sacred madrigal’ – Dear Lord of Life – where the contrapuntal writing was clearly brought out and the word painting stressed. Similar attention was paid to the fugal sections of Schein’s setting of Dennoch bleibe, ich stets an dir and good use of the space brought out the antiphonal writing in Croce’s motet In spiritu humilitatis. The performance of Palestrina’s Super flumina babylonis flowed beautifully with smooth singing bringing out the sadness of this lament for lost Zion. However the same technique applied to Josquin’s Doleur me bat, with its more violent imagery, resulted, for this reviewer, in a rather bloodless sameness.

The highlight of this half was the setting by ex-director of music, Graham Coatman, of the text Christus est stella matutina. In this piece, the Latin text is set in translucent homophonic passages disrupted by a livelier and more dissonant chorus with the English text – ‘I am the light of the world’. The choir seemed completely at home in this by no means simple music and gave a satisfying performance. This was followed in the second half by an interesting setting by choir tenor, Matthew Oglesby, of the lamentations of Jeremiah, a text set for use in Holy Week by many Renaissance composers. This was highly melodic and immediately appealing music, which was by no means easy to sing, having a number of exposed passages for various sections of the choir. It received the polished performance it deserved.

The choir responded well to the challenging and more modern music which followed, giving a crystal-clear performance of Arvo Pärt’s Nunc Dimittis in his distinctive tintinabuli style followed by Villa-Lobos’s contrasting Cor dulce, cor amabile with its long beautifully flowing contrapuntal lines and intense central section. These two very different pieces were convincingly sung, showing off this choir’s musicianship and vocal agility. Some excellent solo singing was combined with a complex choral texture from the sopranos and altos in Bo Holten’s Lelia doura and the concert finished with a polished performance of the late romantic setting by the Frenchwoman Mel Bonis of Adoro te, full of luscious harmonies.

* The choir will give the same programme on Saturday, March 23 2024 at 7.30pm at St Margaret’s Church, Church Lane, Horsforth, LS18 5LA.

For tickets (£15 - or students and under 18s free) visit