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13 May 2012
A concert that contains two such popular works as Fauré Requiem and Vivaldi Gloria runs the danger of the performers becoming quite complacent. Everyone has sung it before and knows how it goes. There was no complacency on show, however, at Saturday's performance by Dingwall and District Choral Society.
The concert opened with a robust rendition of Parry's coronation anthem I Was Glad. The small chorus confidently split themselves into two choirs and provided a suitably thrilling performance. Alas more could have been done to balance the organ played by the ever-competent Aileen Fraser as at times it became the dominant feature.
Vivaldi's Gloria kicked off with a burst of speed and energy from Aileen now on the piano, the chorus having parted like the red sea to allow her access. The enthusiasm and enjoyment were clear on the faces of the chorus and this really came across to the audience. The soloists, Julie Keen and Kathleen Cronie were both excellent, combining beautifully in the Laudamus te duet and showing off their solo credentials in later movements. The colour and tone of Julie's voice in particular were perfect for this era of composition.
In Vivaldi's day there was not a great deal of variation in the tempo of the different movements, however enthusiastic young conductor John Thomson chose instead to emphasise these tempo changes with a more modern interpretation. The suscipe in the ninth movement in particular was taken at a surprisingly fast speed after the slow opening Qui tollis producing an exciting climax not often experienced in that movement. Possibly it could be said this was stylistically inaccurate, but I for one have no objections.
Following an interval whose main purpose was to allow the chorus a seat, having been forced to stand for the entire concert, the opening bars of Fauré Requiem allowed the chorus to show that they could cope as easily with quiet sustained singing as they had with the more vivacious repertoire of the first half. The unaccompanied alto and tenor passages in the second movement were a particular delight. These easily slip in pitch yet none of that was evident in this performance. The baritone soloist was another local, Andrew Bruce, whose confidence of tone was a credit to singing in the Highlands. His performance on the Libera me was exceptional, combining with the chorus to produce a movement both beautiful and passionate. Young soprano, Kathleen Cronie returned to deliver a touching rendition of the pie Jesu. Kathleen didn't allow her fast-developing soprano voice to overpower this movement leading to a very sweet and gentle performance which is greatly to her credit.
Towards the end of the work the fatigue of standing for an entire concert was beginning to show but I don't think Fauré would have been displeased with this performance scheduled for the anniversary of his birth.
The final work of the night was The Seal Lullaby by current darling of the classical world, Eric Whitacre. The inclusion of a secular work after an entire programme of sacred music was an unusual and brave choice, however the choir sang with such reverence and beauty to elevate this simple lullaby to a near sacred level allowing it to be a fitting end to a delightful concert. The Highlands has not been blessed with many performances of Whitacre music as yet, but I am sure that, given the reaction of the audience and the enthusiasm from the choir, more shall be forthcoming in the near future!