A review of our spring concerts by John Stone

Music from France and Scotland Sunday 16 March 2014 @ St Mary’s Church, Haddington.

 

Resplendent in their brand new fuchsia (I’m told) and black uniforms, The Garleton Singers and Orchestra presented their latest concert “Music from France & Scotland” to appreciative audiences in Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh on Saturday 15 March and in St Mary’s Parish Church, Haddington on Sunday 16 March 2014.

A carefully constructed programme of both familiar and unfamiliar pieces gave opportunities for choir & orchestra – together and separately – to shine.

The two undoubted highlights were the longest works on the programme.

A Burns Sequence by John Gardner – known by me only as the composer of “Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day” – was given a very creditable performance. This work is immediately attractive with its clever scoring for orchestra never overpowering the choir’s contribution.  In particular, the 4th movement “Will ye go to the Indies, my Mary?” was beautifully arranged and sensitively played. The pizzicato strings and woodwind interventions were neatly handled. The choir commanded the material – with choir soloists David Wilson and Graham Miller contributing to the mix – and sounded suitably earnest in the opening and closing religious songs. With such a wealth of poetry on offer, you would think the composer could have dreamt up a more inspired title for the piece! Still, it did what it said in the title – and the audience loved it.

Poulenc’s Gloria is, of course, a much more familiar work. Here again the balance between choir, orchestra and a beautifully sweet sounding soloist in Wilma MacDougall, was expertly handled by the conductor Stephen Doughty. The choir needed a little time to find its rhythmic feet, but soon settled into a dramatic performance which really commanded the church environment. The soprano and alto sections in particular are to be commended on some thrilling singing.

The two opening works of the programme – Cànan nan Gàidheal (Language of the Gael) and Faure’s ever popular Cantique de Jean Racine set the parameters of the programme well, but I would have liked to have heard the lyrics a little more clearly.

One piece each for choir and for orchestra completed the programme and gave fine contrast. The conductor’s own arrangement of Ossianic Processional for a-cappella choir had wonderfully atmospheric dynamics. The orchestra played Faure’s Pavane with much French poise – and the flute solo was beautiful.

A small aside – posters, tickets and programmes are always nicely presented by The Garletons, but why no programme credits for the orchestra for this concert?

All-in-all, a very satisfying musical evening – and I look forward to hearing them again in Haddington on Saturday June 14th in concert with Nymphenburger Kantatenchor from Munich.

 

John Stone

17 March 2014