THE talented singers in the Helensburgh Oratorio Choir are preparing to perform one of the most challenging works they’ve tackled in recent years – and they’ll do so with the man who composed the piece accompanying them.

Will Todd’s Mass In Blue is the centrepiece of the choir’s ‘Winter Uplifter’ concert at Helensburgh Parish Church on Sunday, December 9.

And according to the choir’s musical director, Jonathon Swinard, the audience at the concert are in for a real treat.

“Will is a very, very well renowned jazz pianist and composer,” Jonathon told the Advertiser this week, “and Mass In Blue is his defining work.

“He actually wrote it for himself and his wife, but she retired about five years ago and Will now conducts the work more often than he plays it.

“However, he’s coming to Helensburgh next weekend to play the piano part, and it’s great to have a composer of his status coming to Helensburgh.

“Will a great ambassador for the benefits of singing as a healthy and social as well as musical experience.”

Will – who will bring with him the other members of the Will Todd Ensemble – has an upbringing steeped in traditional English choral music, but he soon developed a love of jazz, and fused the two together for Mass In Blue.

“It’s one of the most challenging pieces the choir has ever performed,” Jonathon continued, “but they’re really enjoying singing it.

“A choir of their size and ability really should be versatile, and they’re certainly rising to the challenge in rehearsals.

“It’s a departure from the choir’s normal repertoire – it’s particularly challenging rhythmically and needs a choir of really competent musicians to perform it well, and the Helensburgh Oratorio Choir is certainly that.

“Classical music today struggles to maintain a profile, and it’s important to me not just to perform dead composers’ music all the time.

“I’m also hoping the fusion of classical and jazz will appeal to a range of musical tastes, and might encourage people who are not part of our regular audience to come along for what should be a fantastic evening.”

The concert – with a programme which also includes Songs and Sonnets by George Shearing and Hoagy Carmichael’s Skylark – will be Jonathon’s last in Helensburgh before he leaves for a new post with Garsington Opera in the new year.

“I’ve had a great two and a half years with the choir,” he said, “and it’s with great regret that I’m handing it over.

“I can’t reveal who my successor will be just yet, but they will be taking over a very talented choir and a great bunch of people who I’ll miss very much.”

Next Sunday’s concert, which begins at 7.30pm, will be preceded by a ‘meet the composer’ talk with Will Todd, for which there’s an additional £3 charge on top of the concert admission price of £12 for adults, £6 for students and £2 for children under 12.

Tickets for the concert, and the talk, are available in advance from the Scandinavian Shop in Sinclair Street and from the Helensburgh Parish Church office, as well as on the door on the night, subject to availability.