This was a concert of four sets of songs from composers who were fascinated by the life and woes of Mary, Queen of Scots. The contralto Louise Macdonald was singing and Ingrid Sawers accompanied her on the piano.
They began with Farewell to France, sung in German, from Schumann's Maria Stuart Lieder. One of five we heard, they were the last songs written by Schumann who had given them to Clara, his wife, for Christmas in 1852. Mary was leaving France at the age of eighteen and the piano reflected the swaying of the boat. The second was On the Birth of Her Son, followed by a passionate letter to Queen Elizabeth and then Farewell to the World.The final of the five was Prayer, a cry from the heart to God, asking to be rescued. I so enjoyed these Schumann songs; Louise's voice was ideal.
In old French Louise then sang Eddie McGuire's Three Songs on the Stanzas of Mary, Queen of Scots. They had been written on the death of her husband, King Francis II - Solitude, Memory and Presence. They came over as ever so slightly harsher, tougher to sing and, unfortunately, towards their end spoiled by the noise of a machine outside the church. It was good to see Eddie McGuire take his bow at the concert's conclusion.
Louise sung in English Judith Bingham's Adieu Solace where were told the story of Darnley and Rizzio, every school child's favourite historical murder. It was gripping and enchanting. Ingrid Sawers introductions to each set had, in this instance, told us that the final line 'I will think on revenge' was probably not Mary's writing but that of John Knox.
There was a tenderness for Dee Isaac's Triptych for Mary - Lullaby for James, Phoenix Rising (Mary's mother's emblem was a phoenix and depicted in needlework) and In my end is my beginning. It was full circle and finished with 'like flowers at the end'.
I compliment Ingrid on her clear precise and fascinating introductions which went a long way to make this a great concert. And the detailed programme notes which also thanked donors and those who gave through crowdfunding.
Performance: Wednesday 23rd August 2017 at 12.30pm.