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July 20, 2005

National Youth Choir of Scotland

The Scotsman:

In this concert to celebrate the culmination of a week-long residential summer course, the National Youth Choir of Scotland and its training choir delivered an eclectic and imaginative mix of music from all corners of the globe.

One of the common threads running through the repertoire was how the various composers blended sacred music texts together with their own folk or classical/contemporary styles to such stunning effect. Rachmaninov wrote few choral works, but the excerpts from his All Night Vigil for unaccompanied voices are steeped in the music of the Russian Orthodox church, yet grounded by the earthy influence of the rich folk tradition. Kodaly imposes his distinctive Hungarian style on the traditional mass in Missa Brevis. The choir gave a moving performance of this complex work which takes the sopranos to the top of their range.

A personal choice of the artistic director and conductor, Christopher Bell, the five works from 24 Hymns for Mixed Choirs by the Finnish composer Urmas Sisask beautifully captured the rich and diverse influences of the Baltic region. Sisask was also an astronomer and these exquisite pieces are formed around five notes which represent the spheres of the planets. The Let us Pray hymn, with just quiet humming and vocal sounds, was beautifully sung and pushed the dynamic range of the choir to whispers.

NYCoS's professional and dynamic performance created a hard act to follow for the training choir. However, under the expert baton of director Susan Hollingworth, the young singers not only matched the older choir in terms of quality, but very nearly stole the show with a rousing set of songs. Bocanegra's Hanacpachap cussicuinin, Xicochi xicochi conetzintle by Fernandes and Garcia de Zespedes' Convidando esta la noche gave the choir plenty of opportunity to whoop, clap and shriek in these lively Latin American dance inspired pieces.

The mood was more subdued for the finale, Chichester Psalms. This work, set to Hebrew texts, is also a complex mix of different influences which the choirs captured with joy.

Posted by acapnews at July 20, 2005 9:32 PM