Review in Dumfries and Galloway Standard by Brian York
The Spring concert from Dumfries Music Society was held in St.John`s Church, Dumfries, on Saturday evening, 1st. April. We have become accustomed to interesting and challenging, but well-balanced programmes from this group; this concert was no exception. This time around, they showcased two English composers, more or less contemporaries, one well-known, the other not known to me at all. These were Ralph Vaughan Williams, and George Dyson.
The evening got off to a good beginning with a crisp performance of a short choral piece by Dyson, “O Praise God in His Holiness”. Not being familiar with the piece, I am unable to comment, except to say that it fell happily on my ear. Perhaps the male voices struggled a little here, but this has been mentioned before and need attract no further comment.
Next came a delightful choral piece by Vaughan Williams, “O Taste and See”, receiving a balanced performance by the Choral, and a well-sung solo by Lesley Creamer. Good part-singing was in evidence, and this has been remarked in previous concerts.
Dyson`s “Three Songs to Julia” were altogether charming things – reminding us that so many composers of merit fall into unjust neglect. Bass, Michael Deakin had a bit of work to do here, and got better as the songs progressed, (at first I detected some insecurity in intonation, and a bit of harshness in tonal quality.)
But, for me, the most delightful music of the first half were the lovely “Five Mystical Songs” by Vaughan Williams. Here the Choral really rose to the spirit of the music, and Tenor Jonathan Millican sang with faultless intonation and great beauty of voice quality. This was evocative music of a very high order. I loved it.
If we had got into an English pastoral comfort-zone before the interval, we were quickly ejected out of it afterwards. Dyson`s “Nebuchadnezzar” a short oratorio or extended cantata, in four parts, occupied the entire second half. This was exceedingly complex, challenging music, both melodically and harmonically. It is altogether to everybody`s credit that they managed to prepare this to such a high level of performance in but a few weeks` rehearsal time. Bravo, I say.
This was a most successful evening; there was not a capacity audience, but those who were there were treated to music-making of a high order. The Choral were vigorous and responsive, achieving some truly powerful moments in “Nebuchadnezzar”. Both soloists had a lot of difficult work of which they acquitted themselves remarkably. Organist Jordan English had his work cut out as well, and both he and Margaret Harvie provided faultless accompaniment - a bedrock - in this most challenging, difficult programme.
Thanks, finally, are due to Edward Taylor, musical director, whose infectious enthusiasm was apparent throughout the evening.
Margaret Harvie, our accompanist, received her British Empire Medal for Services to Music from the Lord Lieutenant (Fiona Armstrong) at the Council Chambers last Friday (29 June).
Two members of Dumfries Choral Society have been named in the New Year Honours list:
Jill Hardy has been awarded MBE for services to The Arts in Dumfries and Galloway and
Margaret Harvie has been awarded the British Empire Medal for Services to Music.
Our warmest congratulations to them both!