FRANCESCA Massey, known to many in her role of Sub-organist at Durham Cathedral will take charge at the next concert by the Durham Singers.

Ms Massey will be conducting and accompanying two major works that she has chosen for the choir at St Cuthbert's Chapel, Ushaw College, near Durham at 7.30pm on Saturday.

The concert takes its title, Songs of Farewell from a set of six pieces by Sir CHH Parry for unaccompanied choir.

Parry is best remembered for writing the tune to Jerusalem and for his anthem I Was Glad, performed at coronations and royal weddings.

The Songs of Farewell, which Ms Massey will conduct, show Parry in a more contemplative light, as he reflects on the terrible losses of the First World War, and the approaching end of his own life – the centenary of his death falls this year.

The texts for Songs of Farewell are mostly drawn from English poetry, beginning with a simple four-part setting of Henry Vaughan’s My soul, there is a country. The set builds in complexity and length, until the last movements, John Donne’s At the round earth’s imagined corners and part of Psalm 39, Lord let me know mine end, which are almost symphonic in their range.

Ms Massey knows the Durham Singers very well, having been their assistant musical director since 2011.

Speaking about why she had chosen this work for the choir, she said: “The Songs of Farewell contain some truly beautiful music.

"They are is infinity singable, but also fairly challenging in places, and I’m looking forward to the vocal and emotional depth a choir such as Durham Singers will bring to the work."

For the first part of the concert, Ms Massey has selected Domenico Scarlatti’s setting of the medieval poem Stabat Mater, a meditation about Mary, the mother of Jesus, watching her son die on the cross.

A number of composers in seventeenth century Italy wrote solo or duet versions of the Stabat Mater – Scarlatti’s is unusual in being for ten voices, with four soprano parts to bring out the feminine perspective of the text, and he uses the full choir to convey Mary’s anguish through highly expressive harmonies.

The choir’s Musical Director, Professor Julian Wright, conducts this piece, with Ms Massey playing chamber organ, and a theorbo (bass lute), played by Hector Sequera will add extra poignancy.

Two shorter works complement the larger pieces on the programme – Antonio Lotti’s eight-part Crucifixus, written at about the same time as Scarlatti’s Stabat Mater, also uses clashing harmonies to convey grief at Christ’s suffering.

Purcell’s Psalm setting Hear my prayer O Lord introduces Parry’s songs with an intense prayer of penitence.

Tickets: £12. Students and under-25s £8. Children 13 and under: free.

Available online from or from Durham Music Shop, Langley Moor. For more information tel 0779 0148062 or email