Arbroath Choral’s tour de force

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ARBROATH Choral Society, directed by Jane Miller, presented their Christmas Concert to a capacity audience in St Andrew’s Church on Sunday evening.

In a well chosen programme, beautifully delivered by all concerned, this concert had everything.

All items were interpreted and delivered with expertise.

There was vibrancy where needed, beautiful tonal colours, excellent dynamics, good diction – the whole package.

The opening item, ‘And the Glory of the Lord’, set the standard.

It paid testimony to the hard work done at rehearsals by choristers and Mrs Miller, with clear entries in the independent part writing, phrase endings totally together delivered by a choir paying total attention to the conductor.

This proved to be the case in all pieces.

The lively pieces were ‘Tell Out the News’, ‘I Saw Three Ships’ and ‘Torches’, all delivered brightly and confidently.

Another lively piece deserving of special mention was ‘Nutcracker Jingles’ which as the name suggests was an entertaining arrangement of ‘Jingle Bells’ and themes from Tchaikovsky’s ballet ‘The Nutcracker’.

It was tempting to join in singing these melodies.

‘Ding Dong Merrily on High’ started in the traditional way and then became a highly entertaining ‘production’ with the choir at loggerheads with each other and also with the conductor!

The apparent chaos was resolved, but the choir threw away their music in disgust. Good fun.

In ‘Pat-a-Pan’ the choir was accompanied most effectively by guest Heather Crabb on the flute and Lisa Badger on tambour.

Impressively the tuning was maintained and this arrangement was another different feature.

Contrasting pieces which demanded a different approach and technique included ‘The Advent Peace Carol’, an arrangement of Pachelbel’s ‘Canon’, featuring the addition of a flute part.

This was played by flautist Heather Crabb. Unfortunately the flute part was not heard clearly.

This is no reflection on Mrs Crabb, but might be accounted for by the acoustics or the placing of the flautist.

In ‘The Crown of Roses’ we heard beautiful tone and masterly dynamics.

These were also a feature in ‘Seal Lullaby’, although in this piece only, the tenor and bass parts were not quite clear.

This did not however detract from an otherwise beautiful rendition. ‘Wherever You Are’, made popular by the Military Wives’ Choir, was an up-to-date inclusion, another clever example of programme planning.

‘The First Noel’ featured bright and mellow tones with impressive long phrases.

The guest soloist, flautist Heather Crabb, contributed to the evening with four solos; ‘Gabriel’s Oboe’, written by Ennio Morricone for the film ‘The Mission’, and ‘Winter’ from Vivaldi’s ‘The Four Seasons’.

Mrs Crabb’s playing perfectly described slithering and sliding on ice by hesitant walkers as was intended in Vivaldi’s musical painting.

The other two pieces, ‘The Christmas Song’ and ‘Winter Wonderland’, were not just straightforward tunes but included some pretty nifty finger work in the ornamentation which was played with expertise and aplomb.

The other guests at the concert were children from Friockheim Primary School in a choir which was formed only six weeks ago by depute headteacher Simon Gallon.

In this short time a superb choir has been established.

In a new arrangement of ‘Away in a Manger’ the children sang with sweetness and clarity, smoothly delivered, reflecting the mood of the words.

A bouncy contrast, ‘All Around the World’, was delivered with clear words and a different tonal quality.

Well done to all concerned.

As is usual in the Choral’s Christmas Concert, there was audience participation in a fun item, ‘Um Ti Tum’. This was really good.

The audience also joined the choir in two items one of which ‘Star Child’ had thought provoking words and which we hope to hear again.

In an arrangement of ‘Love Came Down at Christmas’ with both choirs and flautist combined.

Special mention must be made of the ‘young’ choristers’ attention to the conductor, Mrs Miller, just as they did to Mr Gallon. Following ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ the concert closed with the ‘senior’ choir singing ‘The Lord Bless You and Keep You’.

Accompanist for the evening was Alison Hart.

Alison accompanied on both piano and organ with expertise.

We now look forward to the Spring Concert where the programme is Mozart’s ‘Requiem’ and famous film music.

The motto of Arbroath High School is ‘Altiora Petamus’ – ‘We aim for higher things’.

In their Christmas Concert, Arbroath Choral Society under the direction of Jane Miller certainly achieved that – and more.

SG