Song choice adds to enjoyment at Singers’ spring concert

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MONIFIETH Singers completed their session with an excellent spring concert on Friday in St Rule’s, Monifieth, before an appreciative audience.

Musical director Misia Paul had put together a varied programme, with enjoyment for all tastes in mind. The choir was ably accompanied by Susan Jenkin on piano and Sheonagh Coutts, organ.

The family of one choir member is of Italian origin and the choir decided to join with him in celebrating the unification of that country 150 years ago, from a host of smaller states, by singing two Italian songs.

The first was Henry Geehl’s ‘Santa Lucia’, extolling the virtues of the seaside of Naples. It was performed very well by the Singers to open the concert. It was followed by a folksong about a beautiful little girl who loves to dance, ‘Bella Bimba’.

It is not often we hear a male duet. What a treat to hear ‘Bonnie Dundee’, sung by tenors Robert Lees and George Mitchelson. Their voices combined well to produce an excellent rendition.

In keeping with the Scottish theme the choir continued by choosing three further national songs. The first was ‘Kirkconnel Lea’, a rather wistful song by Burns. Helen of Kirkconnel was meeting with her lover on the banks of the river Kirtle when a rival appeared and aimed a shot at the lover. He missed and killed Helen instead.

In a gruesome ending to the tale, Helen’s lover hacked him to pieces. Thomas Richardson’s dramatic arrangement of the song captured the storyline admirably, and was matched by close attention to dynamics by the singers to great effect.

There followed the popular ‘Gin I Were where Gadie Rins’, sung in tempo to match the burn on its way down the slopes of Benachie itself. The last melody in the group was ‘Ho-Ro My Nut Brown Maiden’. The arrangement by Doctor William Rigby choir master of the Paisley Festival Choir was lesser known to many in the audience, and contained more than a few tricky rhythms which the choir managed well. There were a few relieved faces in the Singers as the piece ended.

Another duet followed, this time from two of the sopranos, Liz Pardoe and Susan Jenkin. The audience was treated to a lovely performance of the ‘Pie Jesu’, from Lloyd Weber’s Requiem. A lovely blend of voices.

The first half of the concert concluded with three well known classical pieces. There are numerous arrangements of the 23rd psalm, and one of the all time favourites is the Schubert version, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’. An excellent choice. Misia brought out the best of the performance through careful attention to dynamics.

This was followed by an extract from by the lovely ‘Requiem Aeternum, Eternal Rest’ from Verdi’s Requiem. The soprano soloist was Susan Jenkin. Here there was a nice balance between choir and soloist. The last item in this group of three was Fauré’s ‘Cantique de Jean Racine’, written by Faure in admiration and appreciation of the genius of the dramatist. This work was composed 150 years ago and remains as popular as ever. The choir performance was excellent, with faultless entries, and particular attention to the ‘louds and softs’ which emphasise the nature of the piece.

The second half of the concert commenced with a group of three lighter items. First was ‘Over the Rainbow’, the classic Academy Award ballad from Arlen & Harburg’s musical, the ‘Wizard of Oz’, followed by ‘Tea for Two, again from a Broadway musical, ‘No, No , Nanette’, arranged by Peter Gritton.

The third song was by John Rutter, ‘Let’s Begin Again’, from his musical fable, ‘The Reluctant Dragon’. Newish to most of the audience, the tone of this delightful piece was captured excellently by the choir. Rutter himself would have been pleased with the performance.

The ladies of the choir then offered a trip to the West Indies with ‘Jamaica Farewell’.

The plight of the slaves brought over mainly to the Americas from Nigeria three or more centuries ago was dire. They worked up to 16 hours each day, men, women and children, in the cotton and tobacco plantations in the Southern States of America. One of the few concessions that they were given, was to attend church on Sunday, providing that they gave up their own religion and turned to Christianity.

They joined together in song using the style of their homeland, their rich voices singing of their hope for salvation, of their search for happiness and joy on reaching the promised land. Monifieth Singers presented a selection of four such spirituals.

First was, ‘He’s got the Whole World in his Hands’. This was followed by ‘Jacob’s Ladder’. How well the choir got this right! Through their interpretation, and the strong beat of each measure we could visualise the steady climbing of the ladder, rung by rung.

Hugh Roberton also had a hand at arranging spirituals, and the choir selected his arrangement of ‘Nobody Knows de Trouble I See’ for their next song. Again the attention to pace and expression produced an excellent effect. The last piece in this group was ‘Ride On, King Jesus’. Mostly performed as a capella but with a single drum or foot stamping, Alice Parker and Robert Shaw produced a most appealing arrangement for Western choirs. The Singers presented an exciting performance, down to the last unexpected solo ending.

Tenors and basses then had their chance to shine with ‘Seventy-Six Trombones’, the signature tune from the show ‘The Music Man’. Briskly sung, it was easy to visualise a parade comprising eight or nine High School bands marching down the street, colourful and exciting. Well done, the men!

The audience then had an opportunity to enjoy a selection from the acclaimed Sondheim and Bernstein Broadway musical, ‘West Side Story’. The choir started with a lively opener, ‘Tonight’. This was followed, seemingly out of sequence, by the tender ‘One hand, One Heart’. It was sung with great feeling by the choir.

Back to the girls’ song, ‘I feel Pretty’, but sung by the boys of the choir, complete with spring hats, and mirrors with which to admire themselves. The audience were in stiches, perhaps not by the singing, but certainly by the antics. The last of the selection was ‘America’. Sung at great pace, and with a multitude of accents claiming to be Latin American, this was again another hilarious rendition, which certainly captured the feeling of the song.

The concert concluded with the lovely and thoughtful John Rutter hymn, ‘The Lord Bless You and Keep You’.

Thanks to all who helped were given by president George Mitchelson who had provided some helpful narrative thought the evening in his inimitable and witty manner and who invited guests to join with the choir in some après concert refreshments.

So ended another evening of excellent entertainment from the Monifieth Singers. The performance on the night reflects the many evenings of practice put in during the winter months and also the care chosen with the programme to ensure that it provided enjoyment for all.