City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh Singers Scotland at Night, Old St Paul's, Review


By Barnaby Miln - Posted on 14 June 2015

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Alistair Digges.jpg
Show Details
Company: 
The Edinburgh Singers
Production: 
James MacMillan, Tota Pulchra Es; James MacMillan, A New Song; Chris Hutchings, O Vos Omnes; Martin Dalby, Contemplator Celestium; Martin Dalby, Mater Salutaris; William More, O Make Me a Channel of Your Peace; Ken Johnston, Song for St Cecilia; Edward McGuire, Three Reflections; Tommy Fowler, Life's Rejoicing; Tom Cunningham and Alexander McCall Smith, Scotland At Night; James MacMillan, The Gallant Weaver; Gordon Cree, A Scottish Blessing.
Performers: 
Alister Digges (musical director), John Kitchen (organist), Aileen Boyle, David Leaver, Alex Marks, Gillian Mitchell (soloists)
Running time: 
110mins

Even the best of singing seems bare in a concert without some human interest and Alistair Digges knew this. He became the Musical Director of The Edinburgh Singers earlier this year although his involvement with one of Edinburgh's finest choral ensembles goes back ten or more years.

It was his firm enthusiastic and concise introduction after the opening Tota Pulchra Es, a devotion from Vespers by James MacMillan, that set us up with the confidence that he knew what he was about. Not only had he put together an inspired selection of Scottish choral music in historic Old St Paul's but had managed to assemble in the audience six or seven of those Scottish composers.

With two organ voluntaries between the choral works, Martin Dalby's Contemplator Celestium and Tommy Fowler's Life's Rejoicing - and accompanying along the way too - was John Kitchen, at home playing his own organ. It would not have seemed right without him - even though he also has the keys to both the Usher Hall and MacEwan Hall organs.

We heard words from Psalm 96 in James MacMillan's A New Song and part of the liturgy of Holy Saturday in Chris Hutchings' O Vos Omnes. The clear diction and Aileen Boyles' bright solo soprano opening of Martin Dalby's Mater Salutaris were memorable with solos too from David Leaver and Alex Marks. It was fun to read the Latin strap lines in a work which had first been performed at Glasgow High School in 1981.

William More's O Make Me a Channel of Your Peace was beautifully calming. It had its first performance in 2011 by Strathclyde Harmonia in Greenock. The thoughtful Three Reflections by Edward McGuire had not been performed publicly since its composition in 1967. It took the innermost emotions of three poets, Sara Teasdale, Siegfried Sassoon and Gerard Manley Hopkins.

The concert was named for the six scenes of Tom Cunningham's Scotland at Night with the words by Alexander McCall Smith. Dusk with Gillian Mitchell's memorable soprano solo, Refinery in the darkness, the jig music of Ceilidh, at the end of which the audience could not help itself clapping, Simmer Dim in Shetland, the atmospheric start to Trout Loch with its emphasised final word - men, and Lullaby, using the old Scottish word anent. James MacMillan's The Gallant Weaver produced some more fine Scottish words, and demanded a lot of choral humming as it ended.

This fine concert ended with a particularly enjoyable choir and organ work commissioned for this event for The Edinburgh Singers - A Scottish Blessing by Gordon Cree. Not able to find the Scottish verse he needed he adapted a Celtic blessing not hitherto set to music.

As the concert ended the composers who were present were asked to stand so we could acknowledge them all. In his absence we congratulated Sir James MacMillan on the announcement earlier in the day of the honour of a Knighthood.

Performance: Saturday 13th June 2015 at 7.30pm