‘Stunning’ Spring performance

Arbroath Choral Society took to the stage at the weekend for their annual Spring Concert.
Arbroath Choral Society took to the stage at the weekend for their annual Spring Concert.

There were very few empty seats last Sunday night as a multitude of music lovers gathered at St Andrew’s Church, ready to enjoy a feast of well chosen and generally well known music.

Once again, musical director Jane Miller put together a programme that not only thrilled a very loyal audience but also made maximum use of a wonderful space in which to sing. An added bonus was the scope the church offered to the talented and enthusiastic 32 piece orchestra led by Jane Illes-Brooksbank.

Of all the Mendelssohn symphonies, the most rarely performed is the ‘Symphony No 2 in B Flat major’, popularly known as the ‘Hymn of Praise’.

The audience was undoubtedly invigorated from the moment the evening’s programme began with the reassuringly magnificent brass fanfare that opens the first movement of Mendelssohn’s second symphony. After the thrill of the opening movement, the music becomes almost pastoral at times which gives a peaceful and relaxing contrast to the piece.

The 57-strong choir sang with enthusiasm and eagerness, maintaining just the right balance between the vocal and the instrumental contributions under Jane Millar’s direction. They were particularly impressive in the closing chorus ‘Ye Nations, Offer To The Lord’.

Guest soloists for the evening Jill Harrison, soprano, Jonathan Cooke, tenor, were joined by Elaine Taylor for the soprano duet, ‘I Waited For The Lord’.

Formerly the musical director of Montrose Choral Society, Jill Harrison combines professional engagements with her day job of principal teacher of Music at Arbroath High School.

Born in Cheshire, Jonathan began singing treble in Chester Cathedral. In March last year Jonathan was the winner of the Frank Spedding Leider prize having earlier been commended in both the Margaret Dick award for singing and the Hugh Roberton prize for Scots Song.

Following a short interval, the programme took the form of nine popular opera choruses, beginning with the ‘Grand March’ from Verdi’s ‘Aida’ and finishing with the ‘Easter Hymn’ from ‘Cavalleria Rusticana’.

Other famous choruses included ‘Habanera’ from Bizet’s ‘Carmen’ sung by Jill Harrison; ‘Brindisi’ from ‘La Traviata’, sung by Jill Harrison and Jonathan Cooke; ‘Polovtsian Dances’ by Borodin, better known as ‘Stranger In Paradise’ when the melody was used in ‘Kismet’; ‘Chorus Of The Hebrew Slaves’ and the ‘Anvil Chorus’, both by Verdi; Wagner’s ‘Bridal Chorus’ and ‘The Humming Chorus’ from Puccini’s ‘Madame Butterfly’.

Congratulations to everyone involved with the Arbroath Choral Society in putting on another stunning performance, an undoubted highlight in the Arbroath musical calendar.