Male Voice Choir’s concert for Christmas dedicated to Jim Ramsay

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ARBROATH Male Voice Choir’s annual Concert for Christmas held in St Andrew’s Church on Sunday evening was dedicated to the memory of their late honorary president, Jim Ramsay, who passed away last week at the grand old age of 104.

Announcing the choir’s decision, president Douglas Cant said the concert was probably the first ever missed by Jim and that it was to be an evening of music in celebration of Jim’s life and indeed it was!

The Male Voice concert is one which is much awaited on the local Christmas calendar and once again the evening proved to be very popular and their venue a tremendous choice. The gentlemen who were in particularly good voice responded well to their new conductor Sheena Guthrie and were impeccably accompanied by guest accompanist Alison Hart. Their guests were Arbroath Instrumental Band under their musical director Mike Robertson, and Moira Docherty, soprano.

They commenced their programme with ‘Carol of the Mistletoe Singers’ followed by a lovely rendition of ‘Let there be peace on earth’ and the ‘Italian Pipers’ Carol’ which set the scene for a wonderful evening of music which filled the church and delighted the capacity audience.

Moira Docherty is a well-known member of Tayside Opera and had been ready to fulfil her role as ‘Tosca’ but due to the adverse weather conditions the performances were cancelled. However, the weather was kind and she made the journey from Aberdeen to make her debut appearance with the choir.

She opened her programme with Regar’s ‘The Virgin Slumber Song’ and Michael Head’s ‘The little road to Bethlehem’ in which her pleasing soprano voice soared through the church.

Also included in Moira’s programme were ‘Slumber song for the Madonna’, Rutter’s delightful ‘Candlelight Carol’ and the ever popular ‘Chestnuts roasting on an open fire’ and ‘Let it Snow!, Let it snow!’ Throughout Moira was accompanied by Alison Hart.

Arbroath Instrumental Band is, to say the least, quite outstanding and their contribution to the programme was fabulous. The wonderful sound of brass and percussion soared through the church in ‘Jubiloso’, ‘Sleigh Ride’ and ‘The wonder of Christmas’ which was interspersed with some very well-known carols. Ann Ness was the impeccable soloist in ‘Santa Baby’ and she rather took a shine to one of the choir members as her own ‘Santa’.

Also included in the choir’s programme of seasonal song chosen by their musical director of just a couple of months were ‘What dreams are you dreaming’, ‘O little one sweet’ which featured Douglas Cant as soloist; a rousing ‘Men Rejoice’, ‘O leave your sheep’, ‘Coventry Carol’ and the jaunty ‘Cowboy Carol’.

Their final group of songs ‘Roll on Christmas’, ‘Charity’ and ‘The Christmas Bells’ brought the evening to a close. It is fair to say the choir members were in great voice with each part blending to make a sound which was quite superb. The gentlemen were relaxed, watched and responded to their conductor and the result was quite exceptional. The well-deserved applause said it all!

Choir and audience accompanied by the band sang the well-loved carols ‘Once in Royal David’s city’, ‘O little town of Bethlehem’, ‘Hark the Herald angels sing’, ‘Still the night’, ‘See in yonder manger low’ and ‘O come, all ye faithful’.

Mr Cant gave a comprehensive vote of thanks to everyone involved in the concert. He made special mention of Ms Guthrie and guest accompanist Mrs Hart for their contribution to such a special evening; and to Ms Docherty for her lovely singing. Thanks were also extended to Mike Robertson and members of Arbroath Instrumental Band for once again giving the choir the opportunity of making music together; to Marina Kyle who had helped out as rehearsal accompanist; and to the minister, the Rev. Martin Fair, Ken Miller and the Kirk Session for allowing the choir the use of St Andrew’s Church for the concert. Gifts were presented to Ms Guthrie, Mrs Hart, Ms Docherty and Mr Robertson.

The concert was a perfect start to the fast approaching Christmas season and members of the audience were sent on their way with the Instrumental Band playing a stirring rendition of ‘Jingle Bells’ followed by ‘Happy birthday’ to one of the band members.

Coffee, tea and mince pies were served in the Guild hall when there were lots of favourable comments about the concert, especially the singing of the choir and the playing of the award-winning brass band.

We now await the choir’s annual concert which is to take place at the Webster Theatre on Friday April 8. Their guests, by popular request, are Gordon Cree and Cheryl Forbes who thrilled the audience a few years ago when they sang at the choir’s annual concert.