Micklegate Singers, Unitarian Chapel, St Saviourgate, York, March 12 DEATH and resurrection – before and after Easter, before and after the interval – were the twin poles of the Micklegate Singers’ programme conducted by Nicholas Carter last Saturday.

As usual with this adventurous choir, there were additional challenges: comparisons between old and new composers using the same texts, for example. Woefully Arrayed, poetry putatively by John Skelton, inspired William Cornysh the younger to a pungent carol on Christ’s sufferings. It also sparked a surprising response from John McCabe, who died last year.

The clarity of Cornysh’s 16th-century harmony allied to the choir’s confident delivery made a powerful impression. McCabe’s stabbing accents and passing dissonances made for more varied textures, which were reflected in the tenderer repetitions of the refrain. The choir was as alive to these as to the music’s underlying anger.

A similar pairing between settings of Regina Caeli by Felice Anerio (16th century) and our own Cecilia McDowall (born 1951) proved equally stimulating. After Anerio’s rhythmically vital madrigal style, the choir was equally at ease in McDowall’s ecstatic take on the original plainsong, with its remarkable final Alleluia dying away wonderfully.

Eric Whitacre’s Alleluia was more meditative, even meandering, but the same word inspired Peter Philips to immense vivacity in two settings published in 1612. The choir even took on Reger’s virtually unsingable motet O Tod – and survived – though German vowels were sometimes askew. But overall this choir is in rude health, the voices better balanced than ever.