Fri. 26th May
JANE MURRAY: Conductor
and Musical Director
ERIKA FAIRHEAD: Piano Accompanist
IAN WATT: Guitar – Guest Soloist
Church was packed to capacity for Friday’s concert by
Aberdeen Orpheus Choir. Their programmes are good
quality and decidedly attractive, the singing is also of
top quality and the choir which appears to be getting
ever bigger, seem to be enjoying everything they do. The
choir’s current conductor Jane Murray is not just good
at her job, she has a warm personality that goes down
well with audiences.
attraction for this concert was the guest soloist Ian
Watt, one of the country’s finest classical guitarists
who contributed four generous sets to the concert. His
playing was absolutely stunning so let me begin by
detailing his performances. Ian’s programme ranged from
sixteenth century Spanish music through his own guitar
arrangements of popular piano classics by Mendelssohn
and Chopin and on to the finest guitar arrangements of
Granados and Tarrega that sit at the summit of the
classical guitar repertoire. On to three pieces by
Agustin Barrios, the Paraguayan virtuoso guitarist and
composer who is regarded as one of the greatest
guitarists of all time.
Two pieces by
Luis de Narváez had elegant melodies with clean
accompaniments. Mendelssohn’s ‘Venetian Gondola Song’
had Ian Watt bring out so many contrasting ‘voices’ from
his guitar while Chopin’s Waltz in C# minor was a
masterclass in refined fingerboard work.
‘Andaluza’ had a
delicious melody with a dreamy accompaniment while, in
Tárrega’s ‘Recuerdos de la Alhambra’, a mandolin-like
melody rang out steadily above a harp-like
accompaniment. How amazing was that complex multiple
finger plucking of the strings?
Las Abejas by
Barrios in English means The Bees and Ian Watt gave us a
musical picture of some very, very busy bees. Julia
Florida had a honey sweet melody while the Waltz in G
Major was delightfully compelling.
On then to the
choir’s performance. They opened the concert with ‘We
praise Thee, O God’ from the Festival Te Deum by Sir
Arthur Sullivan. Sullivan’s original performance in the
Crystal Palace had a choir of 2,000 singers. I wonder
what that sounded like. The Orpheus Choir gave us a rich
full choral sound with Jane Murray bringing in the
different vocal groups with perfect precision.
The second half
of the concert opened with another serious classical
piece, four movements from the Miserere in c minor by
the Baroque Czech composer Jan Dismas Zelenka. This was
a new one on me but Jane Murray said his music was
particularly attractive. She was right and apparently
Zelenka who worked in Dresden was much admired by both
Bach and Telemann so that has to be good!
The rest of the
choir’s programme was in a lighter vein but just as Jane
Murray had chosen two rather unusual classical pieces,
her choice in the rest of the programme was both
fascinating, unusual and offered arrangements of the
finest quality. We heard two groups of Robert Burns
settings by the American composer James Mulholland,
Butler University, Indiana. Jane Murray described his
settings as “quirky” they certainly had amazing mixtures
of slow music with languorous harmonies against very
lively passages. His melodies matched the words nicely
and the diction of the Orpheus singers was splendidly
clean and clear. ‘A Red, Red Rose’ had some nicely held
notes by the choir. Folksong settings centred round
Liverpool by the Manchester based composer David W.
Jepson were particularly attractive, well arranged and
Exactly a year
ago the Oxford based composer Bob Chilcott came to
conduct the Orpheus Choir and was a great success. This
year the choir sang three of the songs from “Five Days
that Changed the World”. The invention of printing used
the famous typing sentence, “The quick brown fox jumps
over the lazy dog”. It uses all the letters in the
alphabet. Chilcott’s setting was great fun and the choir
certainly rose to the occasion.
The Abolition of
Slavery was more serious and had lovely harmonies and
then the ‘First Powered Flight’ captured the sense of
discovery and advancement.
is famed for his film scores which are often humorously
surprising like the donkey sounds in ‘Two Mules for
Sister Sara’ but he can write a good tune too as in ‘The
Mission’. Angelo Geremia, a baritone from the choir,
sang the melody in Nella Fantasia with the correct
Italian pronunciation. I loved it, as I did the two
pieces that showcased the male and female voices
separately. For the women there was Tundra by Ola Gjeilo
and for the men ‘You raise me up’ a hit for Josh Groban
or Westlife, a bit cheesy in their versions but far more
tastefully sung by the men of the Orpheus Choir.
aptitude in finding good and tasteful arrangements came
through in the last three pieces in the programme, Carly
Simon’s ‘Let the River Run’ sounded dignified as well as
rich and tuneful. ‘Goin’ Home’ the choral version of the
tune from Dvořák’s “New World Symphony” was delightful.
Perhaps best of all was ‘Here comes the sun’ composed
originally by George Harrison of the Beatles but today
in an arrangement by Alan Billingsley. For this piece
Ian Watt sat in with two guitarists from the choir,
Maria Gruber and Graeme Morrice.
Let me conclude
by praising the eight soloists from the choir who lent
their voices to several pieces and of course not
forgetting the choir’s splendid accompanist Erika
Fairhead. Where would the choir be without her?