ANGUS Choral Society presented their annual Christmas Concert in a cool St John’s Episcopal Church, Forfar, on Saturday.
The programme content catered for nearly everyone’s musical tastes, opening with Polish composer Henryk Gorecki’s anthem ‘Totus Tuus’ (1987). This piece calls for extreme dynamics from a peak of ‘fff’ down to ‘pp’ (or softer if possible). To get such levels into perspective can be a choir’s, and conductor’s, nightmare but what we heard was a fine display of tonal variety. The final, extended, diminuendo was superb. This unaccompanied piece had its pitch wobble slightly, but did, successfully, manage to regain its footing.
The second piece, a 16th century anthem by Robert Parsons, also sung unaccompanied, contains phrasing long enough to challenge any top-notch choir’s breath control. Coping with this may well have involved some subtle, well-disguised extra breath intakes. At the outset, the choir sounded less confident but as the piece progressed one could better appreciate the polyphonic complexities of this style of music.
The principal work was Vaughan Williams’ ‘Mass in G minor’ (1921). While the composer intended that the work be performed without accompaniment, he very kindly penned an optional organ part: it’s always wise to have adequate insurance cover against loss of pitch.
Although Angus Choral Society is not, by any means, a huge choir they coped well with the scoring for four solo and two SATB chorus parts. Each of the five movements was delivered with well-balanced part singing and tonal variety. It was a shame that pitch did travel south of the border in the ‘Gloria’ and ‘Agnus Dei’ despite attempts by Graeme Stevenson at the organ to elevate and restore pitch by subtly increasing the organ volume.
Overall, however, this brave performance produced some gorgeous moments.
Graeme Stevenson, organist for the occasion, kindly provided two delightful solos: ‘Es ist ein Ros entsprungen’ by Brahms and ‘Offertoire sur Noels: Gran Dieu! et allons pasteurs, que l’on s’eveille’ by Guilmant, this latter piece providing an appropriate pastoral element to the programme with a feeling of jollity along the way.
The second half of the concert was devoted to more traditional festive pieces interspersed with audience participation. Here the choir items provided an excellent assortment of style from 15th century to calypso sung with abounding confidence.
Musical director Mary Veal is to be congratulated for the end result of all her, and the choir’s, efforts in preparation for the evening’s most worthy performance.