Radiant Dawn for centenary
Kirkcudbright Choral Society staged its Radiant Dawn concert this month.
With a backdrop of cascading poppies created by pupils of Kirkcudbright Primary, the Cochran Hall was the setting for an evening of choral music to mark 100 years since the end of the Great War.
In a well-attended event, the audience was treated to a heartfelt performance by the choir, which, although reduced in number, rose to the challenge of a demanding choral work.
Conducted by musical director Michael Appleford and ably accompanied by the Classical Musicians Ensemble and the society’s superb pianist Susan Smyth, the concert began with Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem, a work which grew out of his own involvement in the First World War but was written when a further war in Europe was looming.
At times, the words and music made for uncomfortable listening as the horror of war was strikingly expressed, but under the tight control of the baton the choir and musicians negotiated the rhythm and key changes with assurance.
Unusually, the work begins with a soprano solo, beautifully executed by Nicola Junor, expressing the desire for peace.
However, the overtures of war build throughout the short movement and the choir convincingly unleashed the fury of battle in the dramatic second movement.
The baritone soloist, Robert Lind, took up the theme of Reconciliation in the third movement with a controlled performance that perfectly reflected the futility of war in the serene beauty of the music.
The elegiacal fourth movement allowed the choir to be more expansive before members confidently tackled the rhythmic build up to the height of battle and inevitable death.
However, the compassion of a grieving world was well conveyed in the closing section.
The soloists and the choir came together in the sombre fifth with excellent handling of rhythm and dynamics throughout.
In the last movement the basses confidently took up the theme of hope for the future and the choir competently drove this message forward to its climax of Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, good-will toward men, before the soprano soloist quietly reiterated her entreaty for peace.
With the beautiful final note from Nicola dying away, the audience was left to contemplate the hope for future peace.
Members of the Classical Musicians Ensemble returned to assist the choir in the second half, which opened with an unaccompanied piece by Scottish composer James Macmillan.
O Radiant Dawn, from which the concert took its title, is an uplifting anthem, which was sung with passion.
This was followed by a more contemplative piece, Tis Winter Now, based on a poem by Longfellow and arranged specially by musical director Michael Appleford.
Its atmospheric evocation of cold winter days was beautifully conveyed.
The choir has regularly performed works by Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo and Ecce Novum again delighted with its gentle, harmonious sound reflecting the wonder of the virgin birth.
Will Todd is a contemporary English composer and his haunting No More Sorrow is a reflective piece, which was sung with great sensitivity, enhanced by the harmonic skill of the strings, piano and keyboard, the latter played by choir member Christina Montgomery.
The concert concluded with a spirited Gloria in Excelsis by American composer Dan Forrest, in which the choir ably transmitted its delight and enthusiasm through the upbeat setting of the traditional text and sent the appreciative audience home with a sense of joyfulness for the festive season as well as having paid tribute to those who fell in the Great War. Contributed
Act of remembrance The funeral of the unknown warrior at Westminster Abbey