DIAMOND JUBILEE CONCERT
Special Guest: BOB
JANE MURRAY: Conductor
and Piano accompanist
ERIKA & ANDREW FAIRHEAD:
RACHEL GROVES: Flute and
CHRISTOPHER SMITH: Oboe
QUEEN’S CROSS CHURCH,
Friday, 27 May 2016
Founded in 1955
by Alex Elrick, their first conductor, the Aberdeen
Orpheus Choir celebrates sixty years of successful music
making this year. Kyle McCallum another past conductor
for many years was present in Friday’s audience to enjoy
the wide range of varied, colourful and reliably tuneful
music that delighted the near capacity audience in
Queen’s Cross Church.
guest for this Diamond Jubilee Concert was the renowned
choral conductor, composer and arranger, Bob Chilcott.
He first came to my notice when he was listed as Robert
Chilcott the young treble soloist on my record, which I
still have, of a world famous recording made of Fauré’s
Requiem in 1967. It was this recording that did much to
popularise Fauré’s work in Great Britain.
programme informed us, Bob Chilcott was described in The
Observer as “a contemporary hero of British choral
music”. A former member of the King’s Singers, Chilcott
has conducted the choir of the Royal College of Music
for seven years and he has been Principal Guest
Conductor of the BBC Singers since 2002. His catalogue
of works reflects his broad taste of musical styles and
his love of writing for singers. As Jane Murray, the
present conductor of the Orpheus Choir said, we were
privileged in having Bob Chilcott take part in the
Choir’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
It was Jane
Murray who conducted the opening Medley of pieces from
West Side Story. Starting with “Tonight”, the choir,
with a rhythmically exciting piano accompaniment played
in stirring style by Erika Fairhead, brought out all the
richness and warmth of Bernstein’s music. The female
chorus were in fine fettle in “I Feel Pretty” followed
by a caressingly attractive performance of “One Hand,
One Heart” with the full choir. The men were to the fore
in “Maria” of course and then there was the full choir
on top form with a rip roaring rhythmically exciting
attack on “America”.
took over as conductor for his own special arrangement
of the “Londonderry Air”. It had attractive vocal
harmonies and counterpoints and the choir was well
balanced along with the strong piano accompaniment.
The Skye Boat
Song was an arrangement by the Choir’s founder Alex
Elrick (1924 – 2007). Here the counter melody sung by
the tenors was most impressive and Jane Murray, taking
over the role of conductor once more, invited us all to
take part in singing the melody. She followed this with
another special Chilcott arrangement, the attractive
American folk melody Shenandoah made to sound very
polished in this version.
from the Australian composer Ben van Tienen’s suite
“Across the Dark” had a very lush piano accompaniment,
(I note that van Tienen is himself a pianist). The
singers had to work hard to get their words across but
for the most part they succeeded.
To close the
first half we all enjoyed the five movements from
Chilcott’s “Songs and Cries of London Town” a
wonderfully colourful vocal suite full of atmosphere.
“Come Buy” throbbed with rhythmic excitement driven
along by piano and with percussion, (drums and bell)
played by Graeme Morrice. “London Bells” had a busy
piano part that brought to life the hustle and bustle of
London streets illustrating the dashing activities of
the “maids in white aprons” mentioned by the choir.
Westminster Bridge” to a text by William Wordsworth had
broad rich choral harmonies and finally in “Good
Morrow!” the separate sections sung between male and
female voices gave the music a special feeling of
The second half
opened with “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz.
Christopher Hussey’s setting had very attractive piano
writing but I found the vocal arrangement rather too
fussy for this basically simple melody.
however excelled in their only unaccompanied piece,
Rheinberger’s Abendleid – beautiful harmonies splendidly
well sung. Possibly even more attractive was Eric
Whitacre’s “The Seal Lullaby” Here was the perfect
balance of piano and choir in a really fine atmospheric
setting of words by Rudyard Kipling.
Shakespeare settings, “I know a bank where the wild
thyme blows” by Sarah Quartel (b. 1982) and “Sigh no
more, Ladies” by Cecilia McDowall) came across
particularly well, the first with lovely clear diction
from the sopranos and the second with rich singing from
the whole choir.
concert, on the way to the car a gentleman stopped me to
say that the piece he most enjoyed in the whole concert
was “Sure on this shining night” by Morten Lauridsen
with beautiful words by James Agee. I think I have to
agree with him. This is a marvellous piece and it was
sung with deep feeling by the choir.
however was had in the final piece when Bob Chilcott
took over the podium once again to conduct his special
arrangement of Buffalo Gals – helter skelter top speed
and thoroughly joyful singing.
Jane Murray had
also brought back two instrumental soloists who
performed to great audience acclaim at last year’s
Christmas concert. Rachel Groves is a multi talented
musician. In the first half of the concert she played
the Allegretto Melancolico from Poulenc’s Flute Sonata –
a dazzlingly fluent performance with a splendid piano
accompaniment played by Jane Murray. In the second half,
Rachel moved from flute to harp giving us an equally
virtuosic performance of the Valse de Concert by
Alphonse Hasselmans – tuneful and rhythmically exciting.
Christopher Smith gave us a very popular piece in the
first half. It was Gabriel’s Oboe by Ennio Morricone
from the film The Mission- a smooth and well sustained
performance. Christopher’s offering for the second half
was another piece by Poulenc, the Élégie from his Oboe
Sonata – a challenging work with some very high notes
but Christopher managed splendidly well. Once again it
was Jane Murray who provided the piano accompaniments
performers were brought on stage for a final round of
applause but there was one member of the choir who was
also brought forward to receive a special plaudit. Alto
Stella Reid has been a member of the choir since it was
founded. She has been a committee member for many years
and is the current choir secretary. Today, after sixty
years of loyal service she was presented with a Life
Membership of the Choir. Perhaps Jane Murray could
persuade Bob Chilcott to make an arrangement of Victor
Young’s song “Stella by Starlight” just for her?