Will Lang, an expert in local folk music, was commissioned by Durham Choral Society in 2013 to produce choral arrangements of traditional Northumbrian folk songs reflecting life by the sea, in the mines and on the land. Traditional orchestration was woven into the piece using the English Concertina with Alistair Anderson, and folk fiddles with Niopha Keoghan, Michelle Broderick and Joanna Lindsay-Dunn. The audience was treated to live clog dancing in the nave of the Durham Cathedral as they absorbed the local folk tradition of songs familiar and not so familiar in Canny at Neet, Bonny at Morn.
From further afield is the Gloria in D by Antonio Vivaldi, a popular choral piece in the Venetian Baroque tradition with bright string and brass orchestration supporting strong rhythms.
Durham-born composer Will Todd was commissioned by Durham Choral Society in 2003 to write a choral work reflecting our local heritage. Inspired by the wooden crib figures made by miner Michael Doyle and displayed in Durham Cathedral, it's set in the Durham Miner’s Gala with a narrative describing the gathering of families with brass bands and colliery banners on a Summer’s day. The orchestration includes the presence of the award-winning Riverside Brass Band marching down the nave of the cathedral followed by the Dawdon Miners’ Lodge banner, a moving replication of Gala Day in the City of Durham on the day of the Big Meet. The piece, written to complement Durham Cathedrals' ring of 10 bells in the key of D, finishes with the soprano soloist and choir singing to a crescendo in praise to God.
We are much more in our comfort zone with choral pieces from the traditional choral repertoire. However, the Choir rose spectacularly to the challenge of modern composition to create a very memorable experience.