Haddington report

The choir continues to develop and grow in corporate ability, as yesterday’s service in Haddington showed.

There were a lot of call offs, partly due to the weather and partly for other reasons, so a smaller choir than usual, consisting of nine sopranos, three altos, four tenors, and six basses, turned up at the incredibly beautiful and historic St Mary’s Parish Church at 10am to be fed tea, coffee and biscuits by the the very friendly ladies of the parish.  We then walked a few hundred yards to the Trinity Centre, the church hall of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, where we rehearsed in the morning to allow our organist to rehearse on the splendid looking organ in St Mary’s church.  As it happened, we didn’t need to decamp, because our regular organist Richard Walmsley couldn’t make it so at very short notice Matthew Beetschen, organist of Dunblane Cathedral and chair of the RSCM Scotland committee, stepped ably into the breach but he didn’t arrive until lunchtime so we could have rehearsed in the church after all.  Not to worry.

The music was very slightly different to that advertised in my previous post, and consisted of:

Hymn: O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness (tune: Was Lebet)
Anthem: O magnum mysterium (Tomas Luis da Victoria)
Hymn: How brightly beams the morning star (tune: Wie Schön Leuchtet, harmony by J S Bach)
Anthem: In a byre near Bethlehem (Irish trad, arranged by John L Bell and Frikki Walker)
Anthem: Bethlehem Down (Peter Warlock)
Hymn: New light has dawned (I think the tune was by Peter Barnard, but apologies if that’s wrong!)
Anthem: Lo! Star led chiefs (William Crotch)
Hymn: Of the Father’s love begotten (tune: Divinum Mysterium)

Of all of the above, personally my highlight was the Victoria anthem which is very atmospheric and very beautiful.  The lowlight?  Well, for me the jury’s still out on the New light has dawned hymn which I didn’t quite get to grips with and I suspect I wasn’t the only one.  It went well enough, but I didn’t particularly enjoy it.  Still, if everything was perfect it’d be a boring world I guess!

A nice surprise for me was the William Crotch anthem, because it was one I’ve never heard before, and it’s a wee gem.  Lots of fun to sing.

RSCM Scottish Voices is still a new choir, and we’ve only met some half dozen times so far.  For the first wee while the focus was just on a rehearsal day with a small service tacked on at the end, almost as an afterthought, but that’s the nature of starting up such a choir consisting of people who don’t already know each other and who don’t meet to rehearse on a weekly basis.  The first services weren’t advertised in any way and so were put on pretty much just for ourselves to round off the day of rehearsing, and the first actual congregation I think we had was a single person at the service at the end of our residential weekend in Musselburgh last year. We had a small handful at St Ninian’s Cathedral in Perth last September, and a similar sized group at St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh in November.  Yesterday though we had over 20 in the congregation which, while clearly is a small number of people in the grand scheme of things, was the biggest number to whom we’ve sung so far.  Numbers aren’t the target of course, but it was nice to see them.

Performance wise, our Musical Director Frikki Walker was pleased with the way it went and how we sounded.  We continue to develop and progress, and things are still looking good for the future.

So that’s all very well, but what about afterwards?

About 100 yards along from the front gate of the church is a pub called the Tyneside Tavern, sitting next to an old mill on the river Tyne.  I’d already identified it from the CAMRA Good Beer Guide as a good place to go, and we weren’t disappointed.  A good turn out of choir members, maybe 20 people, and the beer and craic were good as was the food a few of us had a bit later.  With very friendly staff, and the lounge bar pretty much to ourselves, I could have stayed there all night, but sadly had to travel back west to home!

3 Replies to “Haddington report”

  1. I agree with what you had to say about the service and would like to add that Bethlehem Down really did it for me. Yes, I know that it could have been even better, but it is such a moving piece. It was played to death on Classic FM over Christmas (not a very good recording IMHO as I could never figure out any of the words) and I thought I would like to try it sometime, so I was delighted to see it on our list for Haddington.

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