Rhinegold Photo credit: Charles Brook
Members of Huddersfield Choral Society record new commissions by Cheryl Frances-Hoad and Daniel Kidane in a Covid-secure environment in October 2020

Josephine Miles

Huddersfield Choral Society premieres two new commissions online

10:45, 18th November 2020

Huddersfield Choral Society will premiere two new works by Cheryl Frances-Hoad and Daniel Kidane, commissioned in response to Covid-19, in an online event on 28 November.

Following the deaths of two of its members from coronavirus in the spring of this year, Huddersfield Choral Society wished to create new pieces of music to remember departed friends yet also provide hope for choral singers throughout the UK.

Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, who hails from West Yorkshire, wrote the text for the new compositions by asking each member of the choral society to choose one word that summed up their experience of lockdown. Using these words as inspiration, Armitage wrote two poems, We’ll Sing and The Song Thrush and the Mountain Ash. Frances-Hoad and Kidane were commissioned to set the poems to music. Both composers spent time discussing the poems with Armitage to gain a deeper understanding of their meaning.

Members of Huddersfield Choral Society were able to rehearse and record the new works together in small groups in October, in accordance with government guidelines, alongside virtual rehearsals. Century Films was commissioned to create bespoke videos to accompany the choir’s recordings of the new pieces, which will receive their online world premiere on 28 November. The event will also include discussions with key collaborators from the project.

Simon Armitage commented: ‘It’s been a great pleasure to write songs for my local world-famous choir! I wanted to catch some of the mood of lockdown in the lyrics, both the difficulties people have gone through and the great resilience they’ve shown. The pandemic has been devastating for the creative arts but especially hard on singers, with the world reduced to whispers and masked mumblings. I didn’t just want to put words in their mouths, I wanted to put air in their lungs and blood in their hearts!’

Gregory Batsleer, director of Huddersfield Choral Society, added: ‘For the first time in its 184-year history, Huddersfield Choral Society was silenced. We were devastated to lose two of our members to Covid and wanted to create something that provides hope but also demonstrates the importance of embracing innovation. The lyrics Simon has written are so poignant, made even more so as the members are the root of the inspiration. I’m thrilled to share these beautiful new works with music by the brilliant Cheryl Frances-Hoad and Daniel Kidane.’

Watch the online premieres on 28 November at wellsing.huddersfieldchoral.com  

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