FOR more than 60 years Cumbria Rural Choirs has been raising roofs with its glorious performances of large scale choral works. With well over 100 members drawn from rural communities across all four corners of the county, it is the largest amateur choir in the region. Chorus director, Ian Wright, leads choir rehearsals but this year’s annual concert of two important classical choral works, performed at Carlisle Cathedral on Saturday, March 23 (7.30pm), will be conducted by John Butt.

John was an organ scholar at King’s College Cambridge, the university organist and associate professor of music at the University of California at Berkeley (1989-97), and a lecturer and fellow of King’s College Cambridge (1997-2001). He is now Gardiner professor of music at the University of Glasgow. Since 2003 he has also been the founder, music director and conductor of the Dunedin Consort, well-known for its award-winning recordings and mastery of Baroque repertoire.

The concert will begin with Haydn’s rarely performed Seven Last Words of Christ. According to the Gospels, Jesus made seven utterances from the cross. In 1786 the clergy at the Holy Cave Oratory in Cadiz commissioned Haydn to write music based on the words. Initially it was performed as an orchestral work, but in 1796 Haydn adapted it as an oratorio for choir and soloists. Haydn's piece will be followed by Requiem in D minor by Mozart.

Cumbria Rural Choirs will be accompanied by the British Sinfonietta and highly regarded Kendal organist Ian Pattinson. The four soloists will be professional singers with impressive national and international reputations: soprano, Susanna Fairbairn, alto, Katie Bray, tenor, Paul Smy, and bass voice, Andrew Slater.

Tickets are available from Eden Gallery Tea Room, Penrith, Bookends, Carlisle or via email at Box office 01768-894404.