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Carols in December 2016

Fri. 9th December 2016 at 7.30pm

Craigiebuckler Parish Church

 by Alan Cooper

JANE MURRAY: Conductor

ERIKA FAIRHEAD: Piano

ALLAN BICKET: Organ

NATHAN FENWICK: Violin and Piano

RACHEL GROVES: Harp and Flute

Nearing the end of their sixtieth year, the Aberdeen Orpheus Choir founded by Alex Elrick in 1956 is in good hands under their congenial and warm hearted conductor Jane Murray. She made the capacity audience that turned out to hear the choir feel so welcome. We all really wanted to please her by joining heartily in those carols which invited audience participation. The choir seems to have more men these days and they were on raised platforms so we could see as well as hear them. The result was that the choral performances were particularly richly blended and especially in the final carol, Lo! He comes with clouds descending, the choral singing was thrilling and all encompassing even before the huge audience joined in the final verse. The choir, singing their hearts out, looked as if they were really enjoying themselves. The concert opened with a well known hymn, Rejoice the Lord is King. The tune was familiar but the organ introduction played by Allan Bicket was complex and quite modern – a really nice surprise. Jane Murray had invited two young guest musicians to take part in the concert. Harpist and flautist Rachel Groves has appeared with the choir before and it was great to welcome her back. She had a very special gift for the choir in her capacity not only as a performer but as a composer. Along with her, Nathan Fenwick was another young accomplished musician playing not just violin but later in the concert, piano as well. The two of them, Rachel on flute and Nathan on violin joined with pianist Erika Fairhead in accompanying the choir in Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes, by Constantin Christian Dedekind, a German poet, dramatist, librettist, composer and bass singer of the Baroque Era. This was an unusual piece but with the blend of instruments and choir an absolutely delightful one. It was followed by Glory now to Thee be given, by J. S. Bach, a more familiar work sung with particularly refined balance by the choir. We all joined with a will in O come, all ye faithful, before the choir delighted us with the first of two pieces by John Rutter, the Sans Day Carol, the words of which are related to the Holly and The Ivy but with a different and equally attractive tune. As in last year’s concert Graeme and Karen Morrice were drafted in from the choir as incidental percussionists in Tomorrow shall be my dancing day. The male voices excelled in Mendelssohn’s There shall a star from Jacob come forth from Christus and then Silent Night was twinned with a modern carol Night of Silence. This was a gorgeous combination given an extra lift by the accompanying blend of both piano and organ. The second half of the concert opened with an award winning composition by Rachel Groves. Her carol Joy, composed for her father Jonathan who sings in the tenor section of the Orpheus Choir was voted joint winner by the judges of the Times Carol Competition. We were honoured to be hearing its world première even before it is performed in London. It was a beautifully well crafted piece with an attractive and expressive melody and splendid choral crescendos sung beautifully by the choir. It sat well alongside three Christmas classics by composers whose names are associated with particularly attractive choral settings, Bob Chilcott, Eric Whitacre and of course John Rutter. A Christmas concert just isn’t a Christmas concert without John Rutter. A traditional Shaker Hymn, Simple Gifts, which has been used by several composers in particular Aaron Copland, was next. Rachel and Nathan gave the choral singing a special touch of colour in this piece with their contributions. Deck the hall was sung unaccompanied by the choir displaying the perfection of their blend followed by I will lead you home, by Chris Eaton and Amy Grant. It had a particularly delightful introduction for flute and piano. This led up to that glorious choral performance of Lo! He comes with clouds descending, and to send us on our way rejoicing, God Bless us every one, from Disney’s “A Christmas Carol” What an amazing concert to have everything from J. S. Bach to the film composer Alan Silverstri and all of it sitting so well together. Well done Jane Murray. But that was not all; our excellent guest soloists entertained us royally with two solo items each. Rachel gave us a performance on harp of Debussy’s First Arabesque, originally written for piano. I’m sure Debussy himself would have been delighted with Rachel’s performance; it worked so well on harp. In the second half, Rachel played a piece entitled Baroque Flamenco by Deborah Henson-Conant. The spirit of the flamenco was all there in this exciting atmospheric piece, even the stamping of the dancer’s feet was recreated on the body of the harp used as a percussion instrument. Nathan gave us a wonderfully well detailed performance of Bach’s Allemande from the Partita No.1 in b minor, BWV 1002 for solo violin and in the second half he moved to piano in a rousing performance of the Rhapsody Op.79 no.2 in g minor by Brahms. No one can say that this concert didn’t have something to please every taste. I look forward to the Choir’s summer concert at the end of May when their special guest will be the ace guitarist Ian Watt.

 

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