THE highly regarded choristers of Furness Bach Choir are warming up ready for their next concert under the baton of young and ambitious Italian conductor Marco Bellasi.

Staged at Ulverston's St Mary's Parish Church, on Saturday, December 1 (7.30pm), the Music for Double Choir programme comprises music from the Renaissance right up to the present day, and, as the concert title suggests, all the pieces are for double choir in one form or another. However, the way in which the forces are used varies tremendously from one piece to another. Maestro Marco's intention is to show how the use of two groups of singers implies and thus provides movement, tension and drama as the two choirs interact with one another. Sometimes, as in some of the pieces from Handel's oratorio Israel in Egypt, two equal-sized choirs provide a stereophonic effect as the words and music are thrown backwards and forwards from one choir to another. However, in Bach's Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied and in Benjamin Britten's beautiful Hymn to the Virgin, a small group of voices provides an intricate counterpoint to the magnificent waves of sound produced by the much larger choir behind.

The dramatic opportunities are even clearer in Mascagni's Easter Hymn from the opera Cavalleria Rusticana, where a choir in a church, chanting in Latin, is juxtaposed by a chorus of villagers singing a joyful Italian hymn; gradually the church choir and the villagers combine to produce a magnificent Easter celebration. In the opening chorus to Bach's St Matthew Passion the sense of drama is even greater, as a small group of singers, aided by some angels, tell how Christ's death redeems mankind, while the main choir, placed opposite, starts by questioning the whole thing but ends up uniting with the small choir in an expression of conviction and faith which is almost theatrical in itself. The earliest pieces in the programme are by Giovanni Gabrieli, written in the 16th Century. In O magnum mysterium a choir of high voices is placed opposite a choir of low voices, with the two choirs imitating each other before finally joining together in a joyful Alleluia, While in Hodie Christus natus est a quintet of solo voices tells the story of Christ's birth, with the main choir coming in at intervals with Alleluia, before the two groups join in a festive Gloria. A less well-known piece is a chorus from Carissimi's Jephte, which foreshadows the genre of oratorio so beloved of Handel and other later composers.

All in all, the concert promises to be a enjoyable experience for the audience as well as quite a challenge for the choir.

Tickets available from Sutton's Bookshop at Ulverston, from choir members or by telephone on 01229-837680.