Ruth calls it a day after nine years at the helm

'In Harmony' were in concert at the West Kirk on Friday evening.
'In Harmony' were in concert at the West Kirk on Friday evening.

AN IN HARMONY concert is always a happy occasion and Friday’s was no exception. But perhaps there was just a hint of sadness as musical director Ruth Powrie decided to call it a day after nine years at the helm of the Arbroath ladies’ choir.

And in a fitting farewell to their much-loved conductor, the choir had given Ruth carte-blanche to choose all her favourite music for the evening. This even applied to the guests – a soprano, a trumpeter, a clarinettist and a trio of pipers.

The choir got the evening off to a great start with their ‘modern’ section – Lennon and McCartney’s ‘Let It Be’, Sting’s ‘Fields of Gold’ and a groovy version of Paul Simon’s ‘59th Street Bridge Song’. Accompanist was Alice Menmuir.

Soprano Layla Brown captivated the large audience at the town’s West Kirk with her moving rendition of ‘Io Son L’Umile Ancella’ (‘Adriana’s Song’) followed by the well-known ‘Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man Of Mine’. Her second-half selections, ‘Charlie is My Darling’ and ‘Turn Ye To Me’, were received with rapturous applause. Accompanist was Winnie Sangster.

In a programme of huge variety, clarinettist Anna Carr-Gomm demonstrated her virtuosity in the beautiful ‘Fantasy Piece’ by Schumann and ‘Mists - Summer’ by Paul Reade. She was accompanied at the piano by her grandmother, Alice Menmuir.

But that wasn’t the only family connection of the evening. Trumpeter Colin Sangster gave his usual masterly performance on two tricky pieces, Handel’s ‘Now Let Thy Servant Depart In Peace’ and the old Irish favourite ‘Macushla’, accompanied by his mother, Winnie Sangster, at the piano.

The three guest pipers – Michael Thain, Kirsty Ironside and Jack Newth – quickly had toes a-tapping with their Scottish selection, which culminated with the stirring ‘Highland Cathedral’.

In between all this, the choir was doing justice to all Ruth’s favourite songs. Their Scottish selection included ‘The Flowers o’ The Forest’ (previously played on the pipes by Michael Thain), ‘The Road to the Isles’, ‘Skye Boat Song’ and ‘Scotland the Brave’.

The ‘Sound of Music Medley’ was a compilation of everyone’s favourites, with ‘Climb Every Mountain’ being particularly well-received. Their classical section featured Schubert’s gentle toast ‘To Music’, Besig’s ‘Flying Free’, with a clarinet solo by Anna, Mozart’s reverential ‘Ave Verum’ and ‘I Believe’, with soloist Janet Williamson.

Final selection of the evening was a wartime medley consisting of ‘I’m Going To Get Lit Up’, ‘Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree’, ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’ and ‘Land of Hope and Glory.

A comprehensive vote of thanks was given by Joan MacGregor, with presentations to all the guests and to Ruth. Proceeds from the concert will be divided between the Arbroath support group of Parkinsons UK and Pure Media UK, a charity that aims to encourage talented youngsters in the fields of music and art.

Ruth paid tribute to the choir and talked of all the fun they had had together but said that, with her knees beginning to bother her and, in her mid-eighties, it was time to retire.

Ruth is well-known in musical circles throughout the area. As well as taking private pupils, Ruth taught music in schools for 30 years, was involved for years with the Angus Minstrels and Carnoustie Musical Society and, as if that wasn’t enough, at the age of 75 she completed a five-year Open University BA Hons degree in literature, art and music.

After the concert, there was a special presentation for Ruth in the church hall in appreciation for all the hard work she had put into making In Harmony such a success.

Choir members were - Monica Barber, Corin Beattie, Kathleen Bruce, Barbara Cargill, Susan Coull, Pat Dempster, Ruth Dickson, Audrey Duncan, Rachael Duncan, Maureen Fagan, Maureen Fairbairn, Margaret Gellatly, Ann Johnson, Marlene Kear, Kathleen Lawrence, Sheila Lyons, Joan MacGregor, Sheila McIntosh, Lesley Maguire, Lyla Martin, Karen Ritchie, Lily Robertson, Agnes Simpson, Lynne Smith, June Swankie, Ruth Voigt, Lynette Ward, Janie White, Sandra Wilbourn and Janet Williamson.

JF