Cupar Choral Christmas Concert - Review
On Saturday December 9th, Cupar Choral Society gave its first concert under the able baton of Michael Segaud, following the death of the much-liked Bruce Fraser. The opening piece was a lively, well-rendered Welcome Yule by Hubert Parry and that set the standard for the evening. Britten's St Nicholas Cantata, a tricky piece to perform, opened with Michael Segaud on the violin, playing beautifully, while the choir sang unconducted but with confidence. The second scene was more dissonant, but the choir sang well, the words clear. The tenor soloist, David Horton, added his fine voice to the story, depicting the adult Saint Nicholas. The storm scene created an exciting sound picture with the men creating the drama with verve, joined by the women who added to the energy of this section. Although the tenors and basses were in rather short supply they sang well together and could rise to all the dynamics from sweet piano to fortissimo. Young Ben Clark's sweet treble solo, sung with clear confidence, was excellent and when joined by local trebles Andrew Scott and Tom Anderson their good sense of timing and pitch was a thrilling sound, marred only a little by a slightly ragged ending by the choir. The last few scenes were smoothly performed and the whole colourful canvas was most satisfying to listen to. The clear diction from the choir, enabling the story to be followed, and its careful regard for the dynamics (plenty of eye contact ensured this) demanded by the conductor meant they provided a quality performance full of colour. The Poulenc Christmas Motets are even more demanding to sing, and perhaps it was not surprising that the first, O Magnum Mysterium, risky to try unaccompanied, had to be rescued by tactful support from Robin Bell on the organ as the pitch faltered with all the difficult harmonies, but the choir recovered and the other motets produced a lovely sound. The careful eye kept on the conductor meant that short phrases ended crisply, and in the last two pieces the sound was bright and satisfying. The carols were superbly well sung, particularly "Jesus Christ the Apple Tree", with perfect soft singing where all voices blended beautifully. The Eden Handbells with their sweet, gentle sound and varied Christmas music provided a good foil to the singing and gave choir members time to rest their voices in what was a “long sing”. It was most enjoyable and different. The audience enjoyed the community carol-singing, with treble Ben and the soprano descants adding to the rich sound. And perhaps mention should be made of the seamless changeover when Robin Bell, who had been playing an intricate piece on the piano, needed time to reach the organ for the next scene: Kate Doig took over so well that not a note was missed. It is rumoured that they are considering a stage double act. Seriously, the choir rose to the demands of the challenging music, ably supported by Robin Bell's excellent playing on organ and piano. Michael Segaud not only ensured a nicely varied programme, but with his good control of the singers gave us all a fine concert. It bodes well for the future.