St. JAMES’S CHURCH, STONEHAVEN
The Stonehaven Chorus sounded jubilant indeed as they rejoiced resonantly in a selection of favorite church music in St James’s Church on Sunday. This was especially true in the central section of their three-part programme representing music from the Chapels of Wales. The opening section included music by Scottish composers, both ancient and contemporary while the final selection represented the Cathedral music of England with at its heart, Anthems by Charles Villiers Stanford. The Welsh Hymn repertoire, however, though still vigorously alive in practice in the chapels of its homeland, is rarely heard in concert performance. On Sunday, the Stonehaven Chorus, under conductor Dr John Hearne, Welsh born and bred, provedthat this music is easily able to hold its own, and proudly too, alongside the other traditions of the British Isles.
The two Welsh hymns in minor keys Brithdir by P.H. Lewis and In Memoriam by Caradog Roberts were as Dr Hearne rightly described them, “real little gems”, along with Dr Hearne’s own arrangement for the chorus of Y Delyn Aur, (The Harp of Gold).
Sunday’s performance also provided many opportunities for the audience to join in singing some of the more popular hymns and the highlight, not surprisingly, was Cwm Rhondda. Possibly the best hymn tune ever composed, it easily eclipsed I to the hills will lift mine eyes from Scotland or from England, For all the Saints by Ralf Vaughan Williams, and they are undoubted classics too.
The concert began with a sixteenth century motet by the Scottish composer David Peebles Quam multi, Domini in a rousing performance by the Chorus. This work displayed the fine balance between the different sections of the choir, which they maintained throughout their performance. Praise by John Thomson, the first Reid Professor of Music at Edinburgh University, and sometimes-called “the Scottish Schumann” combined the traditional ScottishPsalm sound with a slightly more exotic melodic and harmonic slant. A lovely carol, Mater Salutaris by Aberdeen born composer Martin Dalby a pupil of Sunday’s organist, Donald Hawksworth at the Grammar School, and John Hearne’s A Duan of Barra with its inspiration in Gaelic psalm-singing evidenced the high quality of contemporary Scottish church music.
The fine music of Stanford represented the English Cathedral tradition. However, Gustav Holst’s amazing Eternal Father, who didst all create that included not just real chimes but bell-like sounds from the sopranos and Hubert Parry’s Coronation Anthem I was glad when they said unto me stole the limelight in this section.
But where was Ireland in all this? Well at the conclusion of the Scottish section was a splendid Motet by Shaun Dillon,Peace. Although born and brought up in Scotland, Shaun Dillon is proud of his Irish ancestry and therefore he can stand proud as the sole representative of Ireland at Sunday’s concert.