By Richard Powell

IN a city as musically vibrant as York, new ensembles seem to spring up with disorienting speed. Getting one to stick is no mean feat, and this makes the groups that have managed it – like the Ebor Singers – all the more valuable. With Saturday’s Anglo-centric programme they celebrated twenty years at the heart of York’s choral firmament, lead by founder Paul Gameson.

Two decades of concerts, records, and tours have not robbed the ensemble of its vitality. Just when you think you’ve heard Handel’s ‘Zadok the Priest’ one time too many, along comes a full-bodied rendition like this to make your hair stand on end. It was offerings such as this and Parry’s ‘I was glad’ that initially impressed, handing the group a license to make a far bigger, bolder sound than anyone would usually expect of just twenty voices.

Nevertheless, the spacious St Olave’s acoustic did not grant easy passage. Concerns that busier textures might be audibly muddied proved all too real in Tippett’s Five Negro Spirituals, where more complex passages failed to cut through.

It was the partsongs and folk arrangements of the second half that played to the strengths of both venue and choir. Stanford’s reposeful ‘The Bluebird’ and two frolicsome John Rutter settings were particular highlights. An otherworldly rendering of Eric Whitacre’s ‘Sleep’ served as a reminder of the astounding breadth of this group’s repertoire. In the face of modern-day pressures to specialise, the Ebor Singers only seem to become increasingly versatile. Long may it continue.