City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh Royal Choral Union 150th Anniversary Concert Review

By Barnaby Miln - Posted on 05 October 2009

Show Details
The Usher Hall
Edinburgh Royal Choral Union, Edinburgh Youth Choir, Scottish Chamber Orchestra
World Premiere of Judith Bingham's Shadow Aspect, Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture and Symphony No 2
Michael Bawtree (conductor), Julian Tovey (baritone), Philip Hague (timpani), John Kitchen (organ), Fiona Scott (soprano), Madeleine Shaw (mezzo soprano), Malcolm Bennett (tenor).
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The Edinburgh Royal Choral Union is Edinburgh's oldest choir, founded in 1858. It was given Royal status in 1911 and performed at the opening of Usher Hall in 1914 which became its spiritual home. But for the Usher Hall's renovation and improvements this their 150th anniversary concert would have been held a year ago.

Their President gave us his welcome and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra played Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture. The choir of over a hundred watched in their seats behind to await their turn with members of the Edinburgh Youth Choir in the front row. After the orchestra had left the stage there was an excited hush of anticipation. On came the conductor, baritone, timpanist and organist to perform with the choirs the world premier of Shadow Aspect.

Judith Bingham's commission was to write a piece about the Stevenson family and the text comes from R L Stevenson with the exception of the opening The Instructions to the Bell Rock Light Keepers, which the choir repeats later.

Fascinatingly the Usher Hall's organ and the four drums, on a high stage, provided the accompaniment to the singers and both the experienced City organist and the young and energetic timpanist are kept busy. Skillfully neither too loud nor too soft they allowed the choirs and soloist to sing clearly heard words which described wind, rain and storm. The shadows of nighttime and the fear of dark. A quiet city in a world that has fallen into a dead silence.

Shadow Aspect is mellow and atmospheric mood music. It is a mature work that describes well Robert Louis Stevenson's city of Edinburgh, with its old and new town, its hidden passages and dramatic weather.

After the interval we heard Mendelssohn's Lobgesang Symphony No 2, a hymn of praise sung in German by the choir with two soprano soloists and a tenor. Towards the end comes the well known chorale which begins Nun danket alle Gott (Now thank we all our God). All praise is due to the Edinburgh Royal Choral Union and its conductor, Edinburgh Youth Choir, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the soloists for a memorable 150th celebration.

Event: Saturday 3 October 2009 7.30pm