THE Ebor Singers will be joined by guest lutenist Matthew Wadsworth for Claudio Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 at their St Cecilia Gala concert at the NCEM, York, on November 25.

Bridging Renaissance and Baroque styles, this glorious Venetian masterpiece is considered the grandest piece of religious music before Bach, and although the York choir’s director, Paul Gameson, has researched and performed Baroque music from across Europe, this remains his favourite work.

"It’s one of the great epic works of Western music," he says. "Monteverdi was a giant. I think of him like Beethoven: a revolutionary, living at the end of one style period, and almost singlehandedly forging a new one through sheer force of will. He used the tools of the Renaissance, but created a new and intensely emotional form of expression, which would eventually be called Baroque."

While many performances of this work use instrumentalists, Monteverdi allowed for different performance options in his score. The Ebor Singers will perform the version without instruments, although there will be organ and lute in support.

Matthew Wadsworth studied lute at London’s Royal Academy of Music with Nigel North and then spent a year at the Royal Conservatory of Music in The Hague in the Netherlands. Working in Britain, Europe and North America as a soloist and chamber musician, he has appeared at most major concert halls and festivals and often can be heard on the radio, both in live performance and recordings.

This year, he gave the first performance of a theorbo concerto written for him by Stephen Goss, with a premiere in Hong Kong followed by a tour with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

Alongside the Vespers, the choir will perform a new work by their president, Philip Moore, organist emeritus of York Minster. "It seemed appropriate to ask Philip to write our St Cecilia commission for this year, as he celebrated his 70th birthday in October," says Gameson. "Monteverdi’s Vespers include hymns and motets devoted to the blessed Virgin Mary, so Philip’s setting of the hymn Virgin Born, We Bow Before Thee fits perfectly."

The Ebor Singers will return to the National Centre for Early Music, Walmgate, on December 16 for their Christmas concert, featuring Benjamin Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols.

Tickets for next Sunday's 7.30pm concert cost £15, concessions £12, students £5, children aged 16 or under free, at or on the door from 6.45pm.

Charles Hutchinson