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In the Licorice Fields at Pontefract
Nights Are Dawninga
Triple Billb
Bob CHILCOTT (b.1953)

Can You Hear Me?
Laugh, Kookaburra!

Take Me Up The Tyne (arr. A. Woods and R. Wilding)

Goodnight Sweetheart (arr. A. Henshaw)

I Will (arr. Simmons)
Asikha Thali – Zulu Freedom Song (arr. M. Brewer)
All My Trials – Spiritual (arr. R. Wilding)
Eleanor Spencer (cello)ab; Laurence Barker (trumpet)a; Anna Scott (violin)b; Sara Woodhead (flute)b; Helen Issitt (piano); Anne Henshaw (director)


To tell you the truth, I thought that this was a disc likely to appeal to people directly connected with or supporting the Ackworth Youth Choir. This is not a bad thing in itself, of course, but of a limited interest. I must now confess that I have listened to it on several occasions, with consistent enjoyment and admiration for these young singers’ skill and dedication. A further point of interest is the inclusion of works especially composed for this choir, among others, by their musical director Anne Henshaw. I must again confess that this composer was completely unknown to me. On hearing her pieces recorded here, one may unerringly say that she knows how to write for young singers, devising catchy tunes that, once heard, stick in the ear. Though fairly simple and straightforward, they are nevertheless likely to challenge young singers’ or amateurs’ skills in matter of rhythm and intonation. This is particularly evident in the first and last sections (actually a repeat of the opening section) of Nights Are Dawning on words by Ian McMillan. The opening item setting Sir John Betjeman’s In the Licorice Fields of Pontefract is a jolly good piece of quite entertaining music. Triple Bill, setting three familiar songs by Shakespeare (hence the title), does not aim at competing either with Warlock and Finzi, but is perfectly happy providing attractive settings.

Bob Chilcott, too, has the knack for memorable tunes and is not afraid of letting some refreshing humour slip into his music, as in the delightful Laugh, Kookaburra!

Most other items are in a popular idiom that must be quite appealing to young singers as they should be to unprejudiced audiences. These include various arrangements of a spiritual, a Lennon-McCartney song and of the Zulu Freedom Song, the latter sung with obvious conviction and enjoyment.

None of these works makes any great claim at profundity or at groundbreaking originality, but all of them are quite well-made and hugely enjoyable. One can not but relish the refreshing optimism of such youthful music making. Everyone here sings and plays with a most communicative enjoyment. A pity, though, that no words are printed, particularly those of the Betjeman song and the McMillan suite; and that we are told so little about the composers and their works. However, this is a delightful release to be relished for all it is worth, enjoyable from first to last, and a marvellous tribute to these young singers’ commitment and conviction.

Anyone interested in the Choir’s activities and recordings should have a look at the Choir’s website

Hubert Culot


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