In Harmony and guests enthrall at West Kirk

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FRIDAY night was music night at the West Kirk, Arbroath, when a large and enthusiastic audience enjoyed a great evening’s entertainment with the ladies of In Harmony and their special guests.

The 28-strong choir under the musical direction of Vicki White (her first annual concert in this role) began in gentle fashion with ‘Over the Rainbow’. The ladies continued the meteorological theme with ‘I’m Always Chasing Rainbows’ and finally and somewhat aptly for the end of a rather wet week, ‘Singing in the Rain’.

The first of the night’s special guests was featured next. John Kerr introduced himself and his first number, ‘Annie Laurie’, which was most beautifully and tenderly sung. Continuing the Scottish theme, the next guest soloist, talented tenor, Jonathan Milne, resplendent in the kilt, sang the lovely ‘Bonnie Wee Thing’. Jonathan’s love of Scottish songs came through in his performance. Vicki White accompanied both gentlemen.

The ladies of In Harmony returned to the stage and in a neat segue with John and Jonathan opened with the haunting ‘Eriskay Love Lilt’ which featured some nice harmonies from the choir. It was good to see the choir members with their heads largely out of their folders and watching the ever-guiding Vicki throughout the evening’s performance, as so many concerts can be spoiled by choirs singing into their music books or missing cues from the musical director. From the lilting of ‘Eriskay’, the happy upbeat, jaunty rhythms of the fisher song ‘O Weel May The Boatie Row’ were handled well and featured a short solo by Pamela Brewster. This trio of folk melodies ended with the gentle lullaby ‘Dream Angus’ arranged by Wilfred H. Phillips.

The spotlight shifted from the vocal department to that of the instrumental with the appearance on stage of the third guest of the evening, teenage fiddler Ross Hull, who soon had everyone’s feet tapping with firstly a fine medley of two marches and then a reel. His talent and passion shone as he held the audience enraptured with his second selection, ‘March of the Minotoch Bull’ and three traditional Gaelic tunes.

The last selection by In Harmony before the interval was a trio of songs which celebrated the longing for and beauty of peace. The Beck and Fisher tune ‘One Candle One Light’ was handled most attractively by the choir as the mellow evening sun shore through the tall stained glass windows of the chancel in a rather fitting way. With the timely appearance of some Latin percussion the ladies laid the beat down for ‘Wakati Wa Amani’ which is Swahili for ‘A Time of Peace’ and the savannah of East Africa was cleverly presented for the audience. The choir members clearly enjoyed this number with its melodies reminiscent of those found in the musical ‘The Lion King’. The first half of the concert finished with ‘Pacem’ (‘A Song For Peace’) a haunting melody in which the choir showed some nice harmonic colour and dynamics.

The second half of the concert opened with Ross Hull playing his own composition ‘Unknown Soldier’ a heartfelt lament, which touched many people in the audience. Ross then once again got folk’s feet tapping with a selection of reels including, ‘Grace Kellys’, ‘Super Fly’ and ‘Sheepskins and Beeswax’.

The choir introduced their second half with ‘Love Changes Everything’ from the musical theatre production ‘Aspects of Love’ by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The ladies clearly refreshed after the break, relished this song. A touch of gospel followed next with a selection from the 1992 Whoopi Goldberg film ‘Sister Act’ including ‘Hail Holy Queen’, ‘I Will Follow Him’ and ‘Shout’. In a touch of serendipity the heavenly musical theatre version of Sister Act is currently playing at His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen.

The fourth guest of the evening, Eileen Masson was welcomed to the stage and had chosen two of her favourite songs for the delight of the audience. First was The Corrs’ ‘Runaway’, which she sang beautifully, her voice very much suited to the piece. Her second tune was the reviewer’s favourite piece from the rock musical ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, ‘I Don’t Know How to Love Him’ and demonstrated well her experience gained from the Arbroath Musical Society. Vicki White accompanied Eileen.

It was the turn of In Harmony again and first in this trio of songs was Paul Simon’s 1970 classic, ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’, with which the choir struggled a little. However, things were back on track with another Paul Simon piece, ‘59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)’ of 1967 vintage, which was nicely lazy and laid back as it should be. Moving from the streets of New York, the set ended with the oldie ‘This Little Light of Mine’.

Throughout the evening the choir was accompanied by Alice Menmuir, an In Harmony stalwart of many years standing. She was ably assisted on page turning duty by guests, John and Jonathan.

John Kerr and Jonathan Milne returned to the stage for a final time with both lads being in a romantic mood. John expertly transported the audience to a tropical paradise with ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ from Rogers and Hammerstein’s wonderful ‘South Pacific’. Meanwhile, Jonathan ‘Casanova’ Milne delighted the audience and teased the ladies with two Franz Lehar pieces, ‘Girls Were Made To Love and Kiss’ and ‘Oh Maiden, My Maiden’. Special guest accompanist was Sheena Guthrie.

All too soon it was time for the choir’s finale, and it did not disappoint. In one of the highlights of the evening the ladies truly excelled in ‘The Rhythm of Life’ by Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields from the musical ‘Sweet Charity’. This is not an easy song to sing and requires good timing and diction, the ability to really spit out the words, as well as passion and In Harmony achieved this.

Choir president Joan MacGregor gave a comprehensive vote of thanks and explained that the profits from the concert were to be divided amongst local charitable causes before the ladies gathered their collective breaths one last time, ending the evening appropriately with ‘Get Up And Sing’.