LEMN Sissay opened the final concert of York Late Music’s British Song Day with readings of his own poetry. This all-too-brief slot was filled to bursting with passion, humour, anger, raw pain and hope. With the audience still reeling, soprano Ana Beard Fernandez and pianist Kate Ledger launched into Samantha Fernando’s Sissay Settings.

Walking In Circles mirrored its text with expanding circles in the piano, while the powerful immediacy of Dance was no frivolous frolic. The Falling Summer unfolded from a single note into bittersweet sultry chords, distantly echoing some of Benjamin Britten’s songs. Light was latterly shone on the forceful Dance: Dance Again featured the same piano part paired with the visceral strength of Sissay’s words.

Nicola Lefanu’s A Penny For A Song shifted between dark urgency and gossamer lightness. Fernandez’s unaccompanied passages were haunting, and Ledger deftly handled thunderously virtuosic material.

The respite of Britten’s Down By The Salley Gardens was short-lived: Steve Crowther’s energetic Don’t Smoke had the pianist singing and shouting along in a riotously rhythmic setting of Allen Ginsberg.

In Peter Reynolds’ icily beautiful Three Winter Haiku, a ray of light appeared at the line "the days are getting longer" in a high pianissimo, only to fade into the cold sparsity of the piano’s closing meditations.

The Poet’s Echo brought a satisfying circularity to this celebration of song in its last words, "Voices, make your meaning clear".

Review by Claire McGinn