The first of three Glasgow Chamber Choir concerts over successive nights took place last night in Canongate Kirk on Edinburgh's Royal Mile.
A slightly lopsided concert at first glance, the first half consisting of two motets by William Byrd (c1540-1633), Ne irascaris Domine and Civitas sancti tui, sandwiching the magnificent Take him, earth, for cherishing by Herbert Howells (1892-1983) written for the memorial service of President John F Kennedy, interspersed with the piano pieces Prelude from Suite for pianoforte duet by York Bowen (1884-1961) and Nocturne from the same suite, all of which lasted about half an hour. It seemed like no sooner were we walking on we were walking back off again, but it all made sense because the second half consisted solely of the comparatively lengthy Ein Deutsches Requeim (German Requiem) by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897), in the piano duet version arranged by Brahms himself soon after he composed the piece.
Having heard Bearsden Choir performing Brahms' full orchestral version of the Requiem just a couple of weeks ago in Thomas Coats Memorial Baptist Church in Paisley (coincidentally where the next performance of RSCM Scottish Voices is due to take place when we sing Choral Evensong there on 4th December) I definitely prefer the more intimate piano version. That's not to criticise Bearsden choir, it's personal preference for an alternative arrangement of the music.
I have to confess I think we just about nailed last night. I don't think a better performance of the Howells piece was possible (and in fact afterwards a musically knowledgeable member of the audience commented that he'd never heard a better sung recording of it) and in particular the first Byrd motet, which we sang spread out round the sides of the audience, was magical. The Brahms itself was powerful when needed, and beautifully quiet when appropriate. And the soloists, Emma Harper (soprano) and Anders Östberg (baritone) sang magnificently, accompanied by Ed Cohen and Jennifer Redmond on piano.
After the concert last night we went next door to the Tolbooth Tavern, where refreshments were consumed before the 2300hrs train back to Glasgow, some chips, and a bus trip back home. So it was about 2am before I manasged to get to bed, tired yet happy.
Unfortunately the performance last night was marred a bit for me by the fact that in the afternoon I pulled a muscle in my back when stupidly trying to lift a speaker stand while I was twisted round. It was a mild tweak, and if I hadn't thereafter been standing in one position holding a folder of music for hours I would have been fine by bedtime, but unfortunately that wasn't an option and it made the pain almost unbearable at times, taking my mind away from the singing. It's a bit better right now though, and hopefully fully dosed up with painkillers I'll be fine for tonight when we do it all again in St Margaret's Episcopal Church in Newlands, Glasgow at 7.30pm. And then again tomorrow evening at the earlier time of 7pm in The West Kirk in Helensburgh. All with appropriate alcoholic refreshment afterwards, naturally!
Tickets are available on the door, costing £10 for tonight's performance and £8 for the Helensburgh one. And there'll be a bar available at the Glasgow performance.