Singers enthrall large audience

MONIFIETH Singers welcomed a large audience to their annual carol concert in St Rules, Monifieth. A change from normal, the choice of holding the event on a Thursday worked well, and the choir was most pleased with such a splendid turnout on such a terribly dreich evening.

The group is a choir of 40 mixed voices, led by their musical director, Misia Paul, and accompanied this year by Sheonagh Coutts on organ and Susan Jenkin, piano.

The evening commenced with a confident and rousing rendition of Llewellyn’s arrangement of ‘Joy to the World’.

Choir and audience then joined together in the favourite, ‘O Come all ye Faithful’ with the exhilarating descant in the last verse.

There followed a group of three carols from the choir. First was ‘Infant Holy, Infant Lowly’, translated from the Polish; next was ‘Zither Carol’ and last ‘Coventry Carol’.

The first solo of the evening was from tenor, George Mitchelson, with Joseph Mohr’s, ‘Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht’. There is little doubt that songs always sound better when sung in their native language where phrasing is more in keeping with the music, and this was a fine performance by George.

The choir was very pleased to welcome once again the senior choir from Seaview Primary School who delighted the audience with three songs - ‘Once in Royal David’s City’, ‘Have yourself a merry Little Christmas’ from the 1940’s musical, ‘Meet Me in St Louis’, and immortalised by Judy Garland, and lastly the all-time favourite carol, ‘Away in a Manger’, in which the audience was delighted to accept an invitation from the choir to join in. It is lovely to listen to young voices enjoying themselves singing. Well done, choir, and to teachers, Miss MacKenzie and Mrs Prendeville.

Joyce Macmillan, contralto, next entertained with a lovely rendition of the West Indian carol, ‘The Virgin Mary had a Baby Boy’.

John Rutter is a favourite composer of the choir. The first two pieces from the next group were by him. He took a traditional Flemish carol, and added words to produce ‘Cradle Song’. Very well sung by the choir; the performance reflecting perfectly the rocking triple meter of the melody to capture the cradle effect. Next on the agenda was ‘Star Carol’. Once again, the Singers perfectly captured the excitement of this piece as their voices encouraged you to “Hurry to Bethlehem, follow me, see his star shining bright!”

Next were two carols from David Willcocks, well known as a conductor, organist and composer. He arranged the 17th century ‘Ein Kindlein in der Wiegen’ to produce a lovely carol, ‘He Smiles within his Cradle’. The melody line was sung very sensitively by soprano, Liz Pardoe, with the under-parts again perfecting the rocking effect required. The last piece in this group was ‘Birthday Carol: Gloria, Gloria in Excelsis’, an exhilarating exhortation to rejoice in the birth of the Lord.

After a short interval, the choir resumed with ‘Quem Pastores Laudavere’, singing in impeccable Latin, and handling the tricky last verse very well. This was followed by the well-known French Carol, ‘Noël Nouvelet’. Rutter’s arrangement was very good, but did create some difficulties in managing rhythm and language. This group concluded with another lullaby, based on a Basque Noël, ‘The Infant King’. This a sweet, soft carol and was sung with just the right feeling.

The audience was then invited to join with the choir in the strident and popular ‘Good King Wenceslas’.

‘Born in the Night (Mary’s Child)’ introduced the next set. This is a lovely, gentle song, which can sometimes drag if all verses are sung. It was enhanced on this occasion by shortening the piece, and introducing a solo verse for soprano. Well done, Chris McCabe. Next, was Llewellyn’s arrangement of ‘How Soft, Upon the Ev’ning Air’. Well performed, with excellent phrasing and lovely interpretation. This was followed by ‘Cowboy Carol’. Malcolm Sargent took this song from Cecil Broadhurst, and adapted it for four parts, intended to be sung a capella. It has opposing degrees of popularity, with some audiences loving it as a refreshing, lively and enjoyable take on the nativity story, and with others who prefer the more traditional approach. The Singers gave a fine performance, but at times with a lack of clarity. The set concluded with the men singing a four part close harmony arrangement of Pierpont’s ‘Jingle Bells’. An entertaining delivery by the men.

Susan Jenkin entertained next with the lovely carol, ‘The Little Road to Bethlehem’. The song was inspired by Margaret Rose, while watching a flock of sheep returning to the fold at the call of the shepherd’s bell. The poem was set to music by Michael Head. A very nice performance.

Then it was time for the audience to join in the singing of ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ to the Vaughan Willams arrangement.

‘Good Enough for Him’ was the choice of the ladies for the start of the concluding set. Peter Chester’s song was arranged for soprano/soprano/alto and the Singers produced an excellent sound, reflecting the mood of the words, and enhanced by controlled steady beat of the accompanying piano.

Two more Rutter carols followed. ‘Christmas Lullaby’ was first, with the angelic refrains of ‘Ave Maria’ sung most beautifully. The last song in the set was the powerful and joyful ‘Rejoice and be Merry’. This wonderful song of praise, arranged with one beat in the bar, simulates the pealing of a bell summoning people to welcome the birth of the Redeemer. This was performed very well by the choir, bringing a superb ending to the performance part of the evening.

The concert finished with choir and audience joining in a hearty rendition of ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’.

A successful carol concert requires a balance of old favourites and new and sometimes more demanding items. This year’s concert was again another polished performance by the Singers, skilfully managed by the conductor Misia Paul.

Audience participation is a feature of the Monifieth Singers Carol Concert, and how pleasing it was to hear the choir augmented with another 150 voices performing several of the traditional Christmas hymns and carols.

At the conclusion of the concert, guests were invited by chairman, George Mitchelson, to join with the choir in some après-concert cheer.