The Scottish Chamber Orchestra Chorus normally accompany the excellent Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Tonight, however, they are on their own, with only the occasional organ accompaniment by Stuart Hope, allowing the Chorus to display their vocal virtuosity under the expert direction of their conductor, Gregory Batsleer.
There is also a theatrical dimension to tonight’s performance, directed by Jack Furness and aided by two actors, Rebecca Wilkie and Benny Young. Between them, they create a theatrical and literary event to complement the music of Parry and Purcell, which illustrates the the underlying themes of the music. Unique and rewarding, it succeeds musically and dramatically, and receives a very warm welcome from a big audience in the theatrical setting of Greyfriars Kirk.
The concert begins conventionally enough, with the 40-strong Chorus dressed in black, assembled on the stage with their conductor in front of them. They sing anthems by Purcell interspersed with organ solos, and show by their melody and harmony why they are one of Scotland’s top choirs.
The second half begins very differently. Actors and Chorus are dressed in casual clothes, and wander around the stage, picking up the many books littered their. The Chorus then begin to sing Parry’s Songs of Farewell, composed between 1916-18 towards the end of the First World War, and towards the end of Parry’s life.
The Chorus not only sing the songs beautifully, but they act them too, complemented by readings given by Wilkie and Young. They use texts from T. S. Eliot, Jung , Dylan Thomas, Graham Greene, Shakespeare, Hardy and Virginia Woolf, illustrating the themes of love, life and death found in the Parry songs.
The Chorus not only show themselves to be great singers, but convincing actors too, and Young and Wilkie are very powerful in their delivery of the texts. The evening is a triumph for the combined talents of all involved, showing that words and music are both important, and they give us an evening to remember.