Christmas Recital, December 2008

Dunnottar Church, STONEHAVEN

Thanks to the tireless adventurous spirit of their musical director Dr John Hearne, the Stonehaven Chorus can be relied upon year after year to come up with an exciting programme of music from all around the world; something for their Christmas Concert that is sure to astonish as well as to delight. When you get to my age, Christmases seem to get closer and closer together and you begin to dread the sameness of those run of the mill Christmas concerts; but this never happens when you go to hear the Stonehaven Chorus.

On Sunday afternoon, even the audience in Dunnottar Church was joining in with their lustiest singing in a carol from Sweden entitled Now shine a thousand Christmas lights that was surely new to most of them. Admittedly, we all sang this one in English, but the chorus themselves seemed to have no difficulty at all in switching in a trice from Polish into Venezuelan Spanish with music in finely wrought arrangements by Dr Hearne himself. Lulajze Jezuniu from Poland had basically straightforward but warmly rich harmonies while the two Venezuelan Carols, Dulce Niño Dios and Los Pastores Bailan swung with jaunty Latin-American rhythms that the chorus delivered with real uninhibited zest. The concert opened with a composition by John Hearne himself. Alleluya, a new work… rang out with a veritable carillon of Alleluyas and the rich broad texture of the harmonic writing filled the church with joyous vocal colour right from the start. In Thomas Wilson’s lovely carol There is no rose, soft washes of harmony contrasted with outbursts of dramatic fervour. Victoria’s O Magnum Mysterium derived its impact from the choir’s control of polyphony while Richard Dering’s episodic carol Quem vidistis, pastores? gloried in splendidly vigorous singing. However, it was with their third set of carols that the Stonehaven chorus really began to hit their finest form. Boris Ord’s Adam lay ybounden, John Joubert’s blazing Torches! and Gustav Holst’s beautiful setting of Lullay, my liking with a clear, fresh soprano solo sung by Oonagh McAlpine really hit the spot. Before the Swedish, Polish and Venezuelan Carols, William Byrd’s Lullaby, my sweet little baby was quite delightful and it was balanced afterwards by the lusty carol Chanticleer once again in a fine John Hearne arrangement. After the traditional audience carol O come, all ye faithful, to set the seal on another fine performance, the Chorus sent the audience home on a real high with their potent rendition of Rejoice, and be glad! by Mendelssohn.