Leeds Festival Chorus aiming to raise the basilica roof on Venice trip

Leeds Festival Chorus will sing in St Mark's in Venice after being invited by 2009 piano competition finalist Alessandro Taverna.
Leeds Festival Chorus will sing in St Mark's in Venice after being invited by 2009 piano competition finalist Alessandro Taverna.
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One of West Yorkshire’s most prestigious choirs has been invited to perform at the world renowned St Mark’s basilica in Venice.

Members of Leeds Festival Chorus were delighted when Venetian Alessandro Taverna invited them to sing in Italy next summer.

Mr Taverna was a finalist in the 2009 Leeds International Pianoforte Competition and came third.

While he was in the city, he developed a great admiration for the Leeds Festival Chorus, which has 170 members singing to professional standards.

Mr Taverna rehearsed for the event at the Headingley home of Margaret Mara, who sings alto in the Chorus.

Margaret Mara told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “I got to know Alessandro well during the competition three years ago. Since then, he has often popped in to see us during his travels.

“We were having lunch and I was talking about Rachmaninov’s All-Night Vigil, usually known as the Vespers.

“We had just sung it in Ripon Cathedral and were planning to sing extracts to the crowds in the middle of Leeds during Light Night.

“During the conversation I told him about our CD recording and he mentioned his brother, who runs a choir in his home town of Caorle, just up the coast from Venice.

“He suggested that the Vespers, sung by Leeds Festival Chorus, would sound really good at the inauguration of the church’s new organ.

“He told me that the Vespers is one of his most favourite pieces and said he would see if he could arrange for us to come. Then we got the invitation.

“Alessandro was in the audience when we performed Fauré’s Requiem this July as part of the Ryedale Festival and he was overwhelmed.

“He sent an email to our conductor and artistic adviser Simon Wright telling him so, and describing it as ‘a great privilege’ that we were going to perform in his church next summer.

“And now, he has arranged for us to sing in St Mark’s basilica in Venice as well.”

Leeds Festival Chorus has performed at the London Proms and Manchester Arena and broadcast regularly on BBC Radio 3. The chorus perform with orchestras with include the English Chamber Orchestra, The Hallé and BBC Symphony.