Classical: Two centuries of song

CONDUCTOR: Halfiax's Choral Society's John Pryce-Jones in action.

CONDUCTOR: Halfiax's Choral Society's John Pryce-Jones in action.

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Beethoven was alive and still busily composing when the small town of Halifax gathered together local singers to form a concert choir.

Now described as ‘the world’s oldest existing choral society’, it begins its bicentenary celebrations with a performance of Mendelssohn’s oratorio, Elijah, they first performed 170 years ago following the premiere a few months previous.

“With all the difficulties that beset them, they managed to continue through two world wars,” commented their conductor John Pryce-Jones at the time of recording two CD’s of religious music for Naxos. “And now we have to adapt to the decline in audiences for live music.”

Following this concert with the North of England Classical Orchestra on March 19, the society will be taking the work to the famous concert hall created by Benjamin Britten at the Snape Maltings down in Suffolk (April 19).

The year is also marked by a commission for a new oratorio from Philip Wilby, The Holy Face, based on the life of Saint John the Baptist, its premiere on October 21 followed by a studio recording.

The celebrations conclude next year on March 24 when one of Europe’s leading period instrument orchestras, the Hanover Band, join them in The Creation, ‘a recent oratorio by Haydn’ – when the society first performed it almost two hundred years ago.

Halifax Choral Society, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Victoria Theatre, Halifax, March 19, 4pm. Tickets from 01422 351158.

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