Choral society celebrate birthday in style

The Kirkcudbright Choral Society 120th anniversary concert. GG 2404047 12
The Kirkcudbright Choral Society 120th anniversary concert. GG 2404047 12

KIRKCUDBRIGHT Choral Society celebrated their 120th birthday in style last Saturday with a performance of Carmina Burana that left the audience in the Cochran Hall in no doubt that despite its age, the society is very much alive and flourishing

The programme opened with Handel’s famous anthem Zadok the Priest and from the very first choral entry we knew we were in for a feast of music as trumpets, drums and voices joined the strings in one of the most recognisable moments from the choral repertoire.

The spectacle of the Handel was followed by the serenity of Vivaldi’s “Stabat Mater” which was sensitively sung by countertenor Michael Deakin. There were the occasional blemishes from the accompanying strings but overall the rich sound from the strings and continuo offered an appropriate accompaniment to a skilled and confident vocal interpretation.

The first half of the programme ended with Matyas Sieber’s “Three Hungarian Folksongs”. This seemed at first glance to be an odd choice: these are songs that some of us in the audience could well have sung during our school days, but the performance showed just how far this choir has come in the last few years and the text proved to be a perfect companion to the infamous Orff texts that were to follow after the interval.

If there is any moment of choral music more immediately recognisable than Zadok, it must surely be the opening bars of Carmina Burana. We hear this so often in film, on television and in advertisements but from the sound of the first drumbeat, it became apparent that nothing compares to the excitement of a live performance. The sheer spectacle of 120 performers in full flow couldn’t fail to send shivers down even the most sceptical of spines; but once the familiar strains of O Fortuna had begun, the audience was left in no doubt that this was going to be something very special.

Carmina Burana is a major choral work and it takes a brave choir to embark on its production. Kirkcudbright Choral Society certainly rose to the challenge. Under the direction of conductor Michael Appleford the choir sang with confidence and obvious enjoyment. Members coped admirably with the complexity of the music. The male voices in particular were exposed in some movements but overall they sang with great gusto despite one or two lapses of concentration during the rousing “In Taberna” chorus. The Regazzi chorus made up of local schoolchildren supported choir and soloists admirably.

Once again, the Choral Society was able to assemble a supporting orchestra made up of local musicians as well as those from as far afield as Bridge of Allan and the South Lakes. How fortunate we are in Kirkcudbright that musicians of this calibre are prepared so willingly to travel such distances! How the orchestra rose to the challenge Orff presents in this music with just one rehearsal is testament to their considerable skill and professionalism and that of their conductor.

The three soloists were, without question, the icing on the cake! Michael Deakin returned to the stage to take on the role of the hapless swan, one he took on with relish. Local soprano Elaine Barnard was a delight! From the seductive low register of “In Trutina” to the heavenly high D in “Dulcissime”, Elaine sang with wonderful control and technical expertise. Baritone Christopher Foster, a last minute stand in for Daniel Hoadley, came to Kirkcudbright having just performed Carmina Burana in Bergen, Norway. He brought with him an interpretation of the role that captivated the audience immediately. His humour and a wonderful voice will be long remembered.