Huddersfield Choral Society

Huddersfield Choral Society / News / Wed 28 Oct 2020

We'll Sing

We'll Sing

We’ll Sing

Lyrics by Poet Laureate Simon Armitage with music by composers Cheryl Frances-Hoad and Daniel Kidane.

Huddersfield Choral Society commissions two new works in response to COVID-19 inspired by its members.

Online World Premiere on 28 November 2020, 7.30pm.

In March 2020, Huddersfield Choral Society was silenced - along with all music-making around the world - due to the coronavirus pandemic and just two weeks into lockdown two of its members tragically died from COVID-19.

Huddersfield Choral Society wanted to create something new that would remember departed friends but also provide hope for choral singers throughout the UK. Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage, a proud son of Huddersfield, asked each member of the Choral Society to send him one word which summed up their words Armitage has created two sets of lyrics – We’ll Sing and The Song Thrush and the Mountain Ash. Huddersfield Choral Society commissioned two acclaimed composers – Cheryl Frances-Hoad and Daniel Kidane – to set the lyrics to music. Both composers spent time with Armitage to explore the best way of interpreting his words and the result is moving and beguiling.

Huddersfield Choral Society refuses to remain silent. Whilst some brilliant work has been done with singers at home, the Society is determined to find a way to sing together safely and continue to make music. These new works capture not only the chilling impact of the pandemic but also the Society’s determination to overcome it. Huddersfield Choral Society has commissioned Century Films to create two bespoke music videos of We’ll Sing and The Song Thrush and the Mountain Ash. This week members began to rehearse in groups of fifteen, in accordance with current government guidelines, led by the Society’s Choral Director, Gregory Batsleer. Century Films will piece it all together to create two videos of each work which will receive their world premiere on 28 November at 7.30pm.

Founded in 1836, Huddersfield Choral Society is one of the longest running choral societies in the UK with an international reputation, performing regularly for broadcasts on BBC Radio and Television, as well as a long history of pioneering recordings. It is a backbone of the community providing friendship, social interaction and improved physical and mental wellbeing though the act of communal singing.

Simon Armitage commented, ‘It’s been a great pleasure to write songs for my local world-famous choir! I wanted to try and 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, Choral Director, Huddersfield Choral Society commented, ‘Huddersfield Choral Society is an amazing community and a huge part of the city’s cultural life. For the first time in its 184-year history it has been silenced. The pandemic has brought to light how fragile the music industry is and many have been found searching the soul of their existence. 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. Earlier this week we came together in small groups for the first time to start rehearsing.

It is going to be an emotional process and I can’t wait to share these beautiful two new works with music by the brilliant Cheryl Frances-Hoad and Daniel Kidane.’

James Olley, President, Huddersfield Choral Society commented, ‘Amateur music making has always played an important role in bringing communities together across Britain. Since March that vital community and cultural experience has been silenced. Thousands of singers and instrumentalists are currently denied the opportunity to come together. Many amateur ensembles now face extinction. There will sadly be too many that never return. Community music-making is essential for well-being and it is critical that we find ways to enable people to come together again on a weekly basis, to share, comfort, lighten the darkness, and experience the empowering and joyful effects of communal music making. Huddersfield Choral Society returned from its silence this week with a very powerful response to the pandemic. I hope others will follow its lead very soon.”

The world premiere will be performed on 28 November at 7.30pm and you can watch it at

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Rebecca Driver Media Relations
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Huddersfield Choral Society
Founded in 1836, the Huddersfield Choral Society has developed an international reputation as one of the UK's leading choral societies. The Society has grown to become a family of choirs including its award winning Junior Choir and its newly launched HCS Voices, an open access choral ensemble. The Huddersfield Choral Society's busy schedule is centred on its own subscription concert season in Huddersfield Town Hall, including its famous annual performances of Handel’s Messiah. The choir also performs in other major concert venues in the UK and abroad. It regularly broadcasts for BBC Radio and Television and has a long history of pioneering recordings.

The choral society is artistically lead by Choral Director Gregory Batsleer and also maintains close relationship with conductor Martyn Brabbins. Recent highlights for the Society include a performance of Britten’s War Requiem at the BBC Proms, a tour to Canada as well as acclaimed recording with Hyperion and Signum Records.

Simon Armitage
Simon Armitage was born in West Yorkshire and is Professor of Poetry at the University of Leeds. A recipient of numerous prizes and awards, he has published many collections of poetry, including Seeing Stars (2010), The Unaccompanied (2017), Sandettie Light Vessel Automatic (2019) and his acclaimed translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (2007). His latest collection is Magnetic Field: The Marsden Poems (2020). He writes extensively for television and radio and is the author of two novels and the nonfiction bestsellers All Points North (1998), Walking Home (2012) and Walking Away (2015). His theatre works include The Last Days of Troy, performed at Shakespeare’s Globe in 2014. From 2015 to 2019, he served as Professor of Poetry at Oxford University, and, in 2018, he was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry. Simon Armitage is Poet Laureate.

Gregory Batsleer
Batsleer is widely regarded as one most innovative conductors of his generation. His current posts include Chorus Director with both the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Royal Scottish National Orchestra and in 2017 he took up the newly created position of Director with Huddersfield Choral Society. As Guest Conductor, recent highlights include performances with the Royal Northern Sinfonia, Hallé Orchestra, Black Dyke, National Youth Choirs of Great Britain, Orchestra of Opera North, Manchester Camerata, Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Academy of Ancient Music, SCO and RSNO with whom he appears on a number of occasions throughout each season. Gregory is deeply committed to exploring new ways of presenting music and extending its reach beyond the concert hall. From 2012 - 2017 he was Artistic Director of the National Portrait Gallery’s Choir in Residence. He is co–founder and Artistic Director of innovative choral ensemble Festival Voices and has in recent seasons curated cross-art performances at Latitude Festival, Wilderness Festival, the Southbank Centre, London Handel Festival and at the Royal Northern College of Music. He has worked as an artistic advisor at the Sam Wanamaker Theatre with leading contemporary artists including Elbow, Damon Albarn, David Lang, Carlos Acosta, Clean Bandit, Guy Garvey and Joy Division. In 2015 Gregory was awarded an arts foundation fellowship for his work in innovation within choral music.

Cheryl Frances-Hoad
Admired for her originality, fluency and professionalism, Cheryl Frances-Hoad has been composing to commission since she was fifteen. Classical tradition (she trained as a cellist and pianist at the Menuhin School before going on to Cambridge and King's College, London) along with diverse contemporary inspirations including literature, painting and dance, have contributed to a creative presence provocatively her own. Intricate in argument, sometimes impassioned, sometimes mercurial, always compelling in its authority (Robin Holloway, The Spectator), her output - widely premiered, broadcast and commercially recorded, reaching audiences from the Proms to outreach workshops - addresses all genres from opera, ballet and concerto to song, chamber and solo music.

Daniel Kidane
Daniel Kidane stands at the forefront of young British composers, bringing fresh ears and raw talent to the contemporary music scene. His music has been performed extensively across the UK and abroad as well as being broadcast on BBC Radio 3, described by the Financial Times as ‘quietly impressive’ and by The Times as ‘tautly constructed’ and ’vibrantly imagined’. Recent projects include the premiere of his orchestral work Zulu by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra; a new work for the CBSO Youth Orchestra, which is inspired by Grime music; a chamber work for the Cheltenham Festival, which draws inspiration from Jungle music; a song cycle commissioned by Leeds Lieder; a piece for the baritone Roderick Williams and the Chineke! Orchestra, which was played at the reopening of the Queen Elizabeth Hall; and opening proceedings at last year’s iconic Last Night of the BBC Proms with his piece Woke, premiered by the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Future engagements include new orchestral works for the Seattle Symphony
Orchestra and London Symphony Orchestra.

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