This concert, called Caledonian Connexions, proved full of contrasts, twists and turns. Choral music that intrigued and enlightened at one. Obviously the theme was Scotland – mostly by association. As lndex Cantorum’s founder and director Mark Williams described in the programme, through the evening we’d hear anything from Scottish composers and those inspired by Scotland, music for Royal courts, folksong, contemporary music, and works from the Renaissance – eighteen pieces in all, some short, some longer.
Scotland’s greatest 16th century composer was Robert Carver. To open the concert, Mr Williams sang an ancient tune, ‘L’Homme Arme’, on which many composers at the time based their works, including Carver with his Mass of the same name. The choir performed its Gloria. This is beautiful music that warms the soul, with long phrases, ornamentation and wide compass between the treble and bass parts.
Equally first class singing in the first half expressed ably grief and anguish in the Scottish-born Robert Ramsey’s How are the mighty fallen in his setting of David’s lament from the Book of Samuel at Jonathan’s death. Many harmonic suspensions and musical false-relations here.
We enjoyed a charming rare secular Scottish part-song by that great musical survivor of four reigns, Tallis; a poignant anonymous Scottish Lament; and a couple of short madrigals, one by
a certain Cipriano de Rore, an innovative composer with a dramatic style expressive of the text, who influenced later developments in the madrigal.
The choir relished the 16th century tribute to St Andrew, Scotland’s Patron Saint, by the Flemish composer Thomas Crecquillon. His Andreas Christi famulus is a supreme piece of sustained eight-part writing.
They romped through a hunting song full of musical imagery by the Scotland enthusiast Mendelssohn. They-sang the much loved Ave Maris Stella by Grieg (his great grandfather was
Scottish), and a grorp of traditional folksongs, one of which was the pastoral love song Ca’ the yowes (drive the ewes to the hills) arranged by Vaughan Williams. This was a truly special performance, a solo tenor’s voice filling the church accompanied by chorale style chords.
A Child’s Prayer, by the Scottish composer James MacMillan, written in response to the 1996 Dunblane tragedy was also sung beautifully by two sopranos from the church’s west end,
accompanied by the choir in the east.
lndex Cantorum’s membership may have changed since Mr Williams founded the choir thirty years ago, but the philosophy hasn’t – themed concerts of the highest standards . Caledonian
connexions was a fine example.