15 October 2017
“Wow. What a choir! And what a concert!” Philip Wilby was clearly thrilled with the performance of his new work ‘The Holy Face‘, written to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Halifax Choral Society, with whom our Chorus sang, along with the Yorkshire Youth Choir and the North of England Classical Orchestra. The work was premiered to a packed Victoria Theatre Halifax on 15 October 2017, following months of rehearsal by all three choirs, orchestra and soloists Catrin Pryce-Jones (soprano), Emma Stannard (mezzo), Peter Harris (tenor) and Jerome Knox (baritone). The concert included Mendelssohn’s Psalm 114 (When Israel out of Egypt came), dedicated to the Halifax Choral Society by the composer in 1839, and Bruckner’s Te Deum Laudamus.
The new work, an oratorio in the English tradition, celebrates the life of John the Baptist, patron saint of Halifax, a stylised image of whose head forms the town’s emblem. The text was assembled by the biblical scholar Canon Neville Boundy from various contemporary sources and the accounts of the four Gospels. His dramatic narrative includes the Birth of St John and the Baptism of Christ, with Herod’s Banquet, Salome’s Dance, and the final beheading. Composer Philip Wilby scored the piece for both orchestra and brass band, as well as including a substantial part for organ.
The Chorus was delighted to join musicians from across Yorkshire to perform this marvellous new work, difficult though it was, and especially thrilled with the composers reaction. “As a lad from Pontefract, I couldn’t have been prouder last evening, so marvellous was the delivery of this tricky new score.”
The solists and choirs recorded The Holy Face with the Black Dyke Band in July 2017, and the resulting CD is now available for purchase.