Concert reviews


Music for a Summer Evening

Pro Nobis singers came up with the perfect recipe for a warm summer evening, a light-hearted and accessible programme to end the year.  Temporarily forsaking their usual Baroque fare, the Natland-based ensemble dedicated an entire programme to the 150th anniversary of the birth of Ralph Vaughan Williams along with a tribute to Her Majesty the Queen.

Director Clive Walkley has consistently showcased quality contemporary music along with long-established composers, and while Vaughan Williams’ songs and arrangements dominated the programme, there was room for works by Cecilia McDowall, harpist Gill Lowden and local composer Adrian Self. 

Highlights of the evening were The Lover’s Ghost, one of Vaughan Williams’ many arrangements of English folk songs, and The Cloud-Capp’d Towers, one of three songs he set to Shakespeare’s verses, bringing out all the versatility and delicacy we have come to expect from Pro Nobis.

Another memorable moment was soprano Jane Maycock’s astonishingly pure solo in Stanford’s Blue Bird, the sound melting away exquisitely into the rafters of St Mark’s Church at Natland. 

Adrian Self’s organ suite, written to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday in 2016 and performed by Walkley, brought variety to the programme, along with an elegant harp duet by Lowden and AnnaKate Pearson.  

Pearson then joined the singers for McDowall’s irreverent “Fancy of Folksongs”. You would have thought that there wasn’t much more to be done with the old favourite Oh No John, but McDowall manages it, bringing the evening to a somewhat raucous conclusion. 

Pro Nobis, founded by Walkley 53 years ago, maintained their usual high quality of performance throughout and the sound was well balanced. If there is a small quibble it would be that the choir was standing too far away, up close to the altar. A small ensemble singing a capella needs to relate more intimately with its audience, who want to see as well as hear the performers; hopefully in future they will stand closer.

Rosie Wates  


The Pro Nobis Choir assembled at Holy Trinity & S. George Roman Catholic Church in Kendal to present its delayed Christmas concert. This building has a superb acoustic for choral music, and the choir were in fine form. Like many other local choir conductors, Clive Walkley always produces an interesting, varied and challenging programme. 

The concert opened with Herbert Howells fine setting of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittiswhich he dedicated to S. Paul’s Cathedral. This is Howells at his superb best. The organist Andy Plowman got the best out of the electronic instrument which is sadly a replacement for the original pipe organ. This is typical Howells which builds and builds to a climax, and it was a privilege to hear this music again. 

A short, but exquisite motet by Schutz featured the two soloists. It was good to listen to the alto line sung by Michael Deakin, an authentic counter-tenor. Although not a dying art, many cathedrals, including some of the major ones, are having to appoint female altos to the traditional part. The soprano soloist, Faye Bowness, was a very effective partner. 

Rather moving performances of Lux Aurumque (Whitacre) and O Magnum Mysterium(Lauridsen) were of particular note, whilst other modern compositions were well represented by Macmillan, Malcolm Archer and Owain Park, plus Clive Walkley’s own compositions. He writes very effectively for his choir, and Pro Nobis concerts regular include compositions by local composers, Adrian Self of Cartmel Priory being another extremely effective composer.  

The Magnificat in D by the relatively obscure Bohemian composer Zelenka brought the concert to a fitting conclusion. Once more, Andy Plowman set as perfect registrations as the instrument would allow. One of the more interesting sections in this work was the lengthy ‘Amen‘, somewhat reminiscent of Handel’s more famous conclusion to his Messiah.   

However, Zelenka’s work almost certainly pre-dated the more illustrious Handel.   

Intonation, chording and diction were excellent throughout. 

Throughout the programme, the music was interspersed with readings delivered with feeling by Rev. David Smethurst. 

Robert Talbot

To read Westmorland Gazette review of our February 2022 concert please click here

Audience feedback from our 50th Anniversary Concert in June 2019 

‘The performance of Purcell’s ‘Come Ye Sons of Art’ was outstanding’ 

‘The Valls was stupendous’ 

‘Brilliant! Beautiful voices’ 

‘Amazing evening!’ 

‘Pro Nobis are like a fine wine – vintage, fresh and full-bodied!’ 

‘Truly a special occasion: musicology and fine performance going hand in hand’ 

‘South Lakes is very fortunate to have this very special choir and the 
opportunity to hear such excellent music’ 

South Lakes poets and artists team up for Pro Nobis – October 2019 

The wealth of cultural talent in South Lakes was perfectly illustrated by Pro Nobis on October 12 with a concert showcasing contrasting works by two composers and two poets from the district. The Natland-based choir was in fine voice for premieres of major pieces by its conductor Clive Walkley and Cartmel Priory organist Adrian Self, with words by Kendal therapist Lucy Crispin and Pam Self respectively. A fine and fitting contribution to Pro Nobis’ programme of concerts during this celebratory year marking its 50th anniversary. Opportunities to hear accessible modern and contemporary choral music performed expertly are to be treasured and Pro Nobis has rarely disappointed during its 50 years existence. 

Walkley and Crispin, one of the choir’s leading sopranos, produced their dramatic cantata, The Song of the Silent Child, over two years. An allegorical fable with elements of fairy-tale and folk-lore, it is very much in tune with our times; ill-defined threats from the weather sow panic and uncertainty and while the writing pre-dates the appearance of Greta Thunberg, it is hard not to see a parallel. 

Walkley has gone for drama rather than musical complexity, with simple repeated rhythms and much unison or two-part singing from the choir. His finest writing came in the lyrical solo sections where tenor Robert Thompson and the Carlisle-based bass Jonathan Millican told the story with theatrical verve. Crispin and Jane Maycock sang the challenging parts of Old Mother Love and the Child.  

Self, a frequent collaborator with Pro Nobis, has established a fine reputation for his religious choral music and his setting of his wife’s four poems collected as Called Back to Paradise can hold its own alongside his best-known works. The choral writing is complex and puts the choir through its paces, with frequent time, key and chromatic shifts. Yet it is at the same time accessible and truly matches the deep religious and nature-loving tone of the poetry. 

The four pieces contrast beautifully; the upbeat Called Back to Paradise Again proclaims religious principles; in the contemplative Candles, flickering firelight recalls Cartmel monks put to death at the time of the Reformation; Catkins is a jaunty paean to spring; finally Thanksgiving brings the other three themes together, marrying religion and nature in a finale in turn anthemic and playful. 

The programme was punctuated with shorter works by Finzi, Kodaly and the Latvian composer Peteris Vasks. Despite the depredations of a cold virus on the soprano section, Pro Nobis was as rewarding as ever. 

Rosie Wates 

Pro Nobis 50th Anniversary Concert review – June 2019- by Philip Burton 

What an evening of celebrations and anniversaries! Purcell’s music to celebrate the birthday of Queen Mary in 1694 (Come Ye Sons of Arts), Striggio’s 40 part motet Ecce beatam lucem that may have been performed in 1565 to celebrate a marriage between two dynastic families in Florence and the opulent polychoral Missa Scala Aretina by Francisco Valls that simply exudes joy. 

Above all, however, it was an evening to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Pro Nobis under their conductor, Clive Walkley. It was a night to remember with distinguished soloists- Evelyn Tubb, Iestyn Morris, Jonathan Millican, Samuel Jenkins and Tamsin Jones- excellent instrumental playing from the Pro Nobis Baroque Players, the Pro Nobis Singers, (with a little help from the Rushley Singers) but above all to acknowledge the inspired leadership of their conductor, Clive Walkley. 

The highlight was a stunning performance of the Mass Scala Aretina something that Pro Nobis and Players revelled in. Did Clive imagine 50 years ago, he would be conducting such as ambitious work? Some wonderful ensemble work between the four choirs, for example, in the Sanctus, and many memorable moments of dramatic expression to capture the words such as in the Qui Tollis or in Et Incarantus. 

A well balanced performance of Come Ye Sons of Arts with beautiful phrasing from the choir and the Players. I did feel, however, that occasionally the performance lacked the musical sparkle of a birthday celebration. 

As a member of the choir performing Striggio’s 40 part motet, Ecce Beatam Lucem the experience of standing within a glorious expansive canvas of sound from the 10 choirs must be something to remember. The biggest logistic challenge of performing this piece at Kendal Parish Church was the staging. To accommodate an expanded choir, the location of the singers meant that the audience were not really able to fully experience that canvas of sound as the sound was caught up in the area they were performing. When the choir came forward for the Mass and Come Ye Sons- the sound was rich and balanced. But the contrasts between smaller ensemble work and the full body of sound had telling effect. 

But the accolades at the end of the evening bestowed on the choir and Clive were fully deserved for one of the most accomplished choirs in South Lakes. Long may Pro Nobis continue after celebrating a triumphant 50th anniversary concert. 

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