THE wealth of cultural talent in South Lakes was perfectly illustrated by Pro Nobis with a concert showcasing contrasting works by two composers and two poets from the district, writes ROSIE WATES. The Natland-based choir was in fine voice for premieres of major pieces by its conductor Clive Walkley and Cartmel Priory organist Adrian Self, with words by Kendal therapist Lucy Crispin and Pam Self respectively. A fine and fitting contribution to Pro Nobis’ programme of concerts during this celebratory year marking its 50th anniversary. Opportunities to hear accessible modern and contemporary choral music performed expertly are to be treasured and Pro Nobis has rarely disappointed during its 50 years existence.

Walkley and Crispin, one of the choir's leading sopranos, produced their dramatic cantata, The Song of the Silent Child, over two years. An allegorical fable with elements of fairytale and folklore, it is very much in tune with our times; ill-defined threats from the weather sow panic and uncertainty and while the writing pre-dates the appearance of Greta Thunberg, it is hard not to see a parallel.

Walkley has gone for drama rather than musical complexity, with simple repeated rhythms and much unison or two-part singing from the choir. His finest writing came in the lyrical solo sections where tenor Robert Thompson and the Carlisle-based bass Jonathan Millican told the story with theatrical verve. Crispin and Jane Maycock sang the challenging parts of Old Mother Love and the Child.

Self, a frequent collaborator with Pro Nobis, has established a fine reputation for his religious choral music and his setting of his wife's four poems collected as Called Back to Paradise can hold its own alongside his best-known works. The choral writing is complex and puts the choir through its paces, with frequent time, key and chromatic shifts. Yet it is at the same time accessible and truly matches the deep religious and nature loving tone of the poetry.

The four pieces contrast beautifully; the upbeat Called Back to Paradise Again proclaims religious principles; in the contemplative Candles, flickering firelight recalls Cartmel monks put to death at the time of the Reformation; Catkins is a jaunty paean to spring; finally Thanksgiving brings the other three themes together, marrying religion and nature in a finale in turn anthemic and playful.

The programme was punctuated with shorter works by Finzi, Kodaly and the Latvian composer Peteris Vasks. Despite the depredations of a cold virus on the soprano section, Pro Nobis was as rewarding as ever.