City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Gloria: Edinburgh Royal Choral Union Review

By Barnaby Miln - Posted on 14 May 2012

Marie Clair Breen.jpg
Show Details
Greyfriars Kirk
Edinburgh Royal Choral Union and Bearsden Choir
Poulenc, Gloria; Bruckner, Three Motets; Langlais, Messe Solennelle; Rutter, Gloria.
Michael Bawtree (conductor), Morley Whitehead (organ), Marie Claire Breen (soprano).
Running time: 

Every chair was taken in the historic Greyfriars Kirk. The audience was facing the organ loft and looked towards the raised seating for a joint choir of one hundred and seventy seven singers. It was a programme of religious settings based on the Gloria, the Anglican and Roman Catholic praise to God. The four we were to hear were composed within the last century and a half, and each sung in Latin.

The choirs of Edinburgh Royal Choral Union and Bearsden Choir last collaborated in October 2002. Through the working friendship of their conductors, Michael Bawtree and Frikki Walker, the two choirs met in Edinburgh for our concert and were going on the next day to perform in Paisley Abbey, swapping conductor and organist. 

The rehearsal, at 2pm earlier in the day, was the first time this time round that they had come together. The Poulenc Gloria, first performed in 1959, is not the easiest and there were some ragged starts. It came to life with the exciting and entirely appropriate soprano voice of Marie Claire Breen who sang the Domine Deus, Domine Deus, agnus Dei, and towards the final sector, Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris.

Marie Claire Breen was singing from the loft high above the choir, and alongside the impressive Morley Whitehead at the console of the Peter Collins organ. She is from Saltcoats and is currently one of Scottish Opera’s Emerging Artists. Indeed she has already performed Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music with Donald Runnicles and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra at the BBC Proms in London. For us later, and after the interval, she sung the solo part in John Rutter’s Gloria, again in Domine Deus.

The Messe Solennelle was loud and exuberant but lacked the sophistication of the original intention that it be played, in the style of a French mass, with two organs. But no harm was done. As the evening progressed the singing came together, as if we were all friends now, and Michael Bawtree was in charge.

It was an adventurous programme, and Michael Bawtree and Morley Whitehead with the joint choir made it a concert to cherish.

Event: Saturday 12 May 2012 at 7.30 pm.