Saturday 9th April saw Cupar Choral Society back after a break due to the pandemic with a well-prepared and challenging programme.

Despite the disappointingly small audience, the choir rose to the occasion with some bold singing.

 

Beginning the evening with Schubert’s “Mass in G”, the choir were balanced with good tuning throughout. Soprano Michelle Sheridan possessed a good lyrical line with a vibrant top to the voice. The conducting of Michael Segaud was clear, and his choice of tempi kept the performance moving at a brisk pace. This was most evident in the energetic and spirited opening of the “Gloria” with good dynamic contrast by both soloists and choir. Despite being a last-minute stand in, the scalic passages in the accompaniment were expertly dealt with by organist Peter Shepherd and the assistant organist at Paisley Abbey deserves a special mention for his contribution to the evening’s performance. As the performance progressed it was evident that this work had been well-rehearsed, and there were clear and confident choir entries in both the “Sanctus” and “Benedictus”. In the latter, Michelle Sheridan was joined by the other soloist; baritone Peter Grant and both singers seemed to enjoy the acoustic of St. John’s before the work concluded with a pleasing and atmospheric tutti pianissimo “Dona nobis Pacem” in the “Agnus Dei”.

 

After a short interval the performers turned their attention to the Requiem Opus 9 by Durufle

 

This work, in complete contrast to the Mass in G by Schubert, exposes the listener to extreme dynamic contrast, complex rhythms and harmonies. The choir clearly relished the challenge, and they again displayed a good knowledge of the work. The complex accompaniment was an important part of this performance, and the excellent Peter Shepherd was again joined by Joe Donmall with his musical playing of the solo cello part in the “Pie Jesu” complementing the soprano soloist. Throughout the work the choir dealt with the harmonic complexities and chromaticism admirably and although there were some tentative moments it had no bearing on the overall performance. Both soloists were again confident performers with Peter Grant evidently enjoying the declamatory “Libera Me”. As in the other well-known Requiem by Faure, the work finishes with “In Paradisum” and the remarkably fresh sounding and well-supported soprano voices were joined by the rest of the choir singing “Chorus Angelorum” to conclude the performance.  


As post-pandemic life gets back to normal, I hope to see this proud choral society get the audience it deserves for its next performance.

 

Peter Thomson

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 Cupar Choral Society Christmas Concert Review 

December 2019 

Contributed by Liz Murray 

 

Cupar Choral Society’s seasonal concert on Saturday 7th December in St John’s Church was a splendid musical experience for the sizeable and appreciative audience. Musical Director Michael Segaud, supported by Matthew Beetschen on the organ, expertly led the choir through a well-chosen programme delivered with confidence and obvious enjoyment. 

 

The traditional opening carol, Once in Royal David’s City, was followed by Gabriel Faure’s popular Requiem which, with contrasting sections of quietness and power, moved from the Introit and Kyrie to the richness of the baritone solo performed ably by Eric Towns. The lyrical and moving Pie Jesu with its quiet plea for rest and peace, was sweetly sung by another Choral soloist, Helen Knowles-Venters.  

 

The choir’s attention to dynamics and tone provided dramatic light and shade during the Agnus Dei and Libera Me, again introduced by the baritone soloist. Finally, the ethereal In Paradisum, with its promise of heavenly peace, brought this beautiful and sensitive performance to its serene end. 

 

After a short interval, the music took on a more festive feel with a selection of well-known carols for audience participation interspersed with seasonal readings and choral pieces. The Sussex Carol, by turns bouncy and legato, contrasted splendidly with The Lamb, a poem by William Blake set to music by John Tavener. The latter was a haunting, atmospheric work of some complexity which was handled very effectively by the choir. A varied trio of songs was completed by What Sweeter Music appropriately arranged by John Rutter. 

 

Next, the more modern words of Olaf, the snowman from Frozen, took the audience to an unusual version of Frosty the Snowman by Michael Segaud in the style of John Rutter. Its smooth, flowing rhythm contrasted nicely with the jollity of We Wish You a Merry Christmas which brought the evening to a rousing conclusion. 

 

This was a very enjoyable concert by singers who displayed good musicality and a sensitive understanding of the different moods evoked by the music. Their performance was deservedly greeted by enthusiastic applause. 

 
 

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Cupar Choral Society (CCS) is all set to perform A German Requiem by Johannes Brahms on Saturday, 13 April, after a rousing final rehearsal on Monday.

According to brand-new research, German is now the most sought-after language by UK employers. What better time for CCS to be at one with the zeitgeist and singEin Deutsches Requiemin the original German, 150 years after the first performance in 1869?

Michelle Sheridan Grant and Peter Grant, soloists, and Matthew Beetschen and Anne Holland, accompanists, will join CCS and Michael Segaud, Musical Director, for their 2019 Spring Concert at St John’s Church, Cupar.

Yet again, Cupar Choral Society offers a stunning line-up of soloists and musicians. Highlights of Peter Grant’s career as an operatic bass baritone, concert performer and exponent of Scots song include roles with the Royal Opera House and Scottish Opera and performing for 10,000 at the Scottish Proms Concert at Glamis Castle. Soprano Michelle Sheridan Grant’s international career takes in English National Opera, radio recitals and roles in Bermuda and the USA. Matthew Beetschen is now organist / choirmaster at Dunfermline Abbey after many years at Dunblane Cathedral. Anne Holland teaches piano at Strathallan School.

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From the opening ethereal notes of the first part of Karl Jenkins’ Adiemus, as well as the well-controlled crescendos and joyous percussive moments, the substantial audience at Cupar Choral’s Annual Concert on 21stApril knew they were going to be assured of an excellent evening of music.

After a warm welcome to St. John’s Church by the Reverend Ian Weatherspoon, conductor Michael Segaud introduced the second piece in the programme, five Spirituals arranged by John Rutter from his song cycle ‘Feel the Spirit’.    

Under Michael’s excellent direction the choir’s mellow tone, clear diction and some lovely instrumental moments captured the genre of the songs.   The finger clicking in ‘Joshua beat the Battle’, the thoughtful atmosphere and exquisite harmonies of ‘Steal Away’, the beautiful beautiful opening piano passage followed by a most sensitive solo flute, the sonorous chordal sounds in ‘Deep River’ and the smiles and sharp clarity of ‘When the Saints’ right to the exuberant ‘Yeah’ at the end, all underlined that the conductor, choir and instrumentalists were at one in the performance. 

The final piece again by Karl Jenkins ‘The Armed Man’, saw the choir joined by a larger group of instrumentalists, the excellent Cupar Consort, and four young soloists with great potential, Leah DuncanKarim from Dunfermline, Isobel Haynes from Cupar, Mathew Cobain from Kirkcaldy and Brandon Low from Markinch.

This anti-war piece dedicated to the victims of Kosovo, uses the Catholic Mass as a framework alongside texts secular and religious including the haunting Adhaan, the Muslim call to Prayer and words from Kipling, Tennyson and Sankichi Toge, a Hiroshima survivor who sadly died later of leukaemia.

Again the response of choir, young soloists and instrumentalists to the direction of Michael Segaud engaged the audience in the journey from the insistent percussive and piccolo clarity of ‘L’Homme Arme’, through the poignant piano solo of Torches, the beautiful descending scale of the ‘Angus Dei’, the heart rending cello solo and contrasting triumphant declaration of the ‘Benedictus’, right to the end with the uplifting and passionate rendition of ‘Better is Peace than always War’.    The Armed Man does indeed echo so much of the present World’s unease.

This was a terrific evening of music from a choir who so obviously love to sing and are justly proud of Cupar Choral under the leadership of Michael Segaud.

Rehearsals begin on Monday 10thSeptember 7.30pm  for the next concert, Handel's Messiah, on Saturday 8thDecember in St. John’s, something to look forward to.

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Popular and Profound - Cupar Choral Society Spring Concert

Cupar Choral Society’s Spring Concert brings together Sir Karl Jenkins’ hugely-popular Adiemus and The Armed Man and a selection from Feel the Spirit, John Rutter’s jazz-influenced setting of familiar American spirituals. 

First performed in 2000, The Armed Man is subtitled A Mass for Peace and is dedicated to victims of the Kosovo crisis. With over 2000 performances to date, the work has a universal appeal, with its powerful evocation of the terrible consequences of war and its enduring message of peace and tolerance – a message that is sadly relevant today.

Choristers will be joined by a virtuoso orchestra, The Cupar Consort, which includes well-known Fife musicians and musicians from much further afield. 

The Society is delighted to have the opportunity to showcase the remarkable talents of our four young soloists: Leah Karrim (soprano), Isabel Haynes (contralto), Matthew Cobain (tenor) and Brandon Low (baritone). 

Michael Segaud, the Society’s Musical Director, said: 

Watch out for these four in future! They all deserve to go far, and they are fantastic ambassadors for music-making in Fife”.

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