The Garleton Singers have reached their 40th Anniversary this year and Sunday night’s Concert in St Mary’s Church, Haddington was a suitably celebratory affair. In what was a packed programme and a “big sing” for the choir, the conductor Stephen Doughty had devised a musical sequence spanning some four hundred years of glorious sacred choral music.It demonstrated the singers grasp of some of the differing styles on offer and was beautifully accompanied by both orchestra and organ.
It was a brave choice to open the programme with the J S Bach motet Lobet den Herrn – Praise the Lord, all you nations; and the choir coped admirably with the densely weaving choral writing through to the glorious Alleluia finish. Following a pause to relocate the choir and seat the orchestra, one of Monteverdi’s most famous pieces – Beatus Virwas next. After a tentative start the familiar full choralsound contrasting with the semi-chorus was impressive. In the next piece, Gabrieli’s Jubilate Deo,the choir managed the tricky time changes with aplomb. Adding winds and drums to the orchestral mix, Mozart’s Coronation Mass was next and it was one of the highlights of the programme.It’s a mark of the maturity of the choir that they can field soloists of quality from amongst their own ranks, and tonight was no exception. The quartet sounded splendid, and was particularly affecting in the Benedictus, with the full choirs interposing Hosannas. This was followed by the beautiful Agnus Dei and special mention must be made of the soprano soloist Morag Sherriffs who was outstanding.
The interval gave us time for a brief look at an exhibition of choir photos, posters and memories from the previous forty years; before a second half of Vaughan Williams, Henryk Górecki and John Rutter. The festive atmosphere was enhanced by brass and percussion – firstly in VW’s O Clap Your Hands. The sound was truly thrilling. Gorecki’s meditation on the Blessed Virgin for unaccompanied choir – Totus Tuus was less successful.However, Rutter’s Gloria was indeed a glorious and suitable end to such a festive programme. The choir can be heard again in St Mary’s on Monday 23rd May; before leaving to sing two concerts in the Polish city of Krakow in the summer. What an anniversary year!