YORK’S Late Music Concert Series (“performing new music by living composers”) sprang back into life at the weekend with a mini-festival of vocal music. Well, two events in one day, which constitutes a musical feast given the thin gruel of so many recent weekends.

The London-based Elysian Singers, conducted by Sam Laughton, brought youthful tone and a creamy blend to a largely meditative programme entitled Butterfly Dreams, after the Tavener work at its centre. Philip Glass’s Three Songs (1984) made for a friendly start, the choir nicely underlining the irony – a pseudo-pop ma-ma-ma backing – in When Men Live In Brotherly Love.

For sheer beauty, the last of Górecki’s Five Kurpian Songs (1999) took the laurels, its closing harmonies in Vaughan Williams style neatly tuned. David Lancaster’s intriguing Bliss, to words from an old English carol, brought an enigmatic dissonance to its title word and omens of the Passion to “in excelsis gloria”.

The Tavener’s “almost child-like simplicity” – the composer’s words – turned out to be meager, not to say fragile, and at its brief best in the four haikus at its centre.

Gavin Bryars’s settings of Three Poems of Cecco Angiolieri were unremittingly melancholy and did little to illuminate the fascinating story of their genesis.

In contrast, Arvo Pärt’s Magnificat was brilliantly intense, while sustaining a prayerful ambience. It would have made a better ending than Whitacre’s ubiquitous Sleep, which even in this account began to sound hackneyed. Nevertheless the Elysians were a persuasive ensemble, excellently attuned to this repertory.

Lunchtime had seen the husband-and-wife duo Bright Cecilia, alias Graham and Robin Bier, exploring their own and others’ reactions to music of the trobairitz, the female counterparts of the troubadours. Few of their melodies survive, but their often erotic poetry, in the inherently musical Occitan language, is too tempting for composers to resist setting.

The standard here was remarkably even, but the most evocative response was Mary E Larew’s En un Vergier (In an orchard), whose spare harmony remained true to the poetry’s mediaeval origins.

Edward Caine brought a slow, studied beauty to a duet on the same poem. Kerry Andrew’s dawnsong, a lament to a tolling bell, was equally irresistible. Robin Bier’s flexible soprano was everywhere engaging.

• Future events, including a festival (May 7 to 15), details at latemusic.org/concerts