Angus Choral enthralls at Spring Concert

BRECHIN Cathedral was filled almost to capacity on Saturday for Angus Choral Society’s Spring Concert. With the choir already in place, patiently waiting to begin, a queue of fans was still filing through the door.

The programme began punctually, however, with Grieg’s ‘Ave, Maris Stella’ which was delivered with beautifully controlled and well-shaped singing. Although this piece should normally be sung unaccompanied it was helpful for the choir to have a very discreet accompaniment from Graeme Stevenson at the organ.

Two Bruckner motets followed. ‘Locus iste’, in the opening bars seemed to have hints of Wagner’s ‘Pilgrims’ Chorus’. The choir’s a-cappella singing provided much tonal and dynamic contrast and a most effective ending. ‘Virga Jesse floruit’ provided the choir with a greater harmonic challenge but the end result was rewarding, despite voices being stretched to extremes of their ranges.

Mascagni’s ‘Easter Hymn’ from ‘Cavalleria Rusticana’ featured Jill Harrison as soprano soloist whose expertise was obvious from her opening ‘Alleluia’ through to the end. This well-known chorus was not a victim of any run-of-the-mill treatment but had power and restraint when required although, personally, I was expecting a more resounding climax to finish off the number. However, the balance of part singing was first-rate.

The second ‘half’ of the programme was devoted to Brahms’ ‘Requiem’ Op.45, a major challenge for any choir, but Angus Choral rose to it and the overall result was admirable, a performance greatly appreciated judging from the audience’s rapturous and deservedly lengthy applause. Each movement presented its own ‘wee’ challenge whether nasty key or dynamic changes or lung-bursting phrase lengths.

Douglas Nairne, in both of his baritone solo movements displayed great breath control and dramatic variety with such apparent ease that we were left in no doubt whatsoever that this young man most certainly has a great future ahead of him.

Jill Harrison’s ‘Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit’ was also particularly moving. The ‘Requiem’ was most ably enhanced by a superb instrumental ensemble who gave appropriate support and dramatic bite throughout as required. A couple of Tympani might have provided the icing on the proverbial cake. It was a shame that the players were not named in the programme.

Musical Director, Mary Veal must be congratulated for producing such an excellent, polished performance from all concerned and now everyone can, deservedly, enjoy a well-earned ‘rest from their labours’.