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Spring Concert Review
16 May 2014

Saturday May 10th, an evening of music, drama, glitz and glamour. I, and a decent number of other like-minded individuals, elected to experience this not by staying in And watching the Eurovision Song Contest, but rather by visiting Strathpeffer's beautiful Pavilion to attend a performance of Rossini's Petite Messe Solonnelle put on by Dingwall and District Choral Society.

As the programme note stated this mass was 'neither little, solemn nor especially liturgical in spirit' but was full of the excitement and comic spirit one would expect from Rossini. Accompanied by the vastly talented Aileen Fraser on piano and Mairi Mackenzie on harmonium (or at least an electric approximation of one) the choir set out on a remarkably well-controlled Kyrie demonstrating a delicate touch not often shown by amateur singers while giving hints as to the spirit and vivaciousness that was still to come. A robust Gloria gave way to the soloists, none of whom looked to be out of their twenties. Knowing the grand scale of this mass and the demands required of the soloists, this group of fresh faced youngsters had me slightly worried, but from the moment they opened their mouths my fears were laid to rest as they all demonstrated a maturity of voice that belied their enviable youthful good looks.

Often in a concert such as this,  one soloist stands out from the others but in this case John Thomson, the equally young conductor of the choir, had successfully gathered a superb ensemble of soloists who managed to blend beautifully when singing together and shine in their individual solo movements; Aaron O'Hare's Quoniam was a mastery of controlled power, John Stuart's Domine Deus was delightfully full of character and worthy of any opera buffa heroic tenor, and Claire Evan's O Salutaris was seemingly effortless and sublime, turning what is often a somewhat dreary lull in this otherwise brilliant work into a joy to listen to. My personal highlight had to be the final movement where Marion Ramsay's poignant Agnus Dei was joined by some almost heartbreaking interjections from the chorus before building to a strident and somewhat defiant finale.

Throughout, the choir sang superbly under John Thomson's direction, breezing through the tricky fugues and providing colour and shade in equal measure. They clearly enjoyed performing this work as much as I enjoyed listening to it. I would happily go and hear that concert again and, I suspect, they would enjoy singing it! Once again Dingwall and District Choral Society has put on a fabulous concert that is a credit to the local talent that can be found in the Highlands and I look forward to their next outing. 



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