World premiere of John Hearne's English translation of the Swedish text by Bengt
Sunday 24 May 2009
St James Episcopal Church, Stonehaven [Map]
With an orchestra led by Bryan Dargie and chorus and orchestra conducted by Dr John
Hearne this was promising. The opening strains of Bach's Magnificat in D
were followed however by an uncertain and almost inaudible entry from the chorus.
The soloists gave them more confidence, though the tenors, always hard to come by,
continued to struggle. All four principal soloists, Wilma MacDougall, Elysia Leech,
Iain Milne and Stewart Kempster, sang beautifully. And when Oonagh McAlpine stepped
forward from the choir for the trio we knew where at least one of the fine soprano
voices came from.
We then had a triumphant performance of Fredrik Sixten's Requiem, full of
depth, passion, skilled variety of mood, exploring the doubts, despair and final
assertions of faith implied in the Christian theology of death. Was there even a
touch of humour, like wee children laughing in church?
The orchestra offered power and delicacy, gentle solos from Dargie, resonance from
the cellos and full-throated glory from the brass. Stewart Kempster and Wilma MacDougal
sang the solos with authority.
The tour-de-force of the whole concert was now the superb singing of the Stonehaven
Chorus. This music gave them strong lines, skilled breathing space, resonant chords
and opportunities, tenors included, to show control of fortissimo and pianissimo.
Their unaccompanied Agnus Dei, written after the untimely death of the composer's
friend, was mesmerizingly beautiful.
Apt applause was given to the orchestra, the chorus, the soloists and especially
to John Hearne, whose communication with the musicians seemed almost palpable.
When the composer stepped forward the experience was complete.