Edinburgh Guide – Durufle/Bingham at St Cuthbert’s – 4 Stars – 2010

This review — by Barnaby Miln — was originally published on Edinburgh Guide’s Website on Sunday, 21 November 2010.

In front of St Cuthbert’s altar there were nine tiers of red seats for the Edinburgh Royal Choral Union with the ladies at the back and men in front, and in front and to their side the Edinburgh Youth Choir. On the other side were the timpanist’s drums. On came their conductor, Michael Bawtree, in a fetching red waistcoat, to start a fascinating programme.

Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986) was a French composer and the concert opened with Four Motets on Gregorian Themes sung in Latin by the adults; the second of the four motets by the ladies alone.

Judith Bingham was in the audience to hear the premiere of her work Annunciation III played by Philip Hague for whom she had written it. This was because she was so impressed by his timpani playing in the premiere of her earlier work Shadow Aspect – which we were to hear later in the programme.

Philip Hague is a young man from Edinburgh who, having just graduated from Music College in Glasgow, is immediately off on a UK tour with five Admiral Fallow band colleagues. He did not disappoint. Annunciation III captures the mingling of the natural with the divine and was inspired by a Byzantine fresco of the Virgin Mary seen by the composer on Patmos. It was just a pity that the layout did not allow him to be raised up a bit because many of us could not watch him play.

John Kitchen’s organ solo was Duruflé’s lovely Choral Variations on Veni Creator.

Judith Bingham’s Shadow Aspect was sung clearly and enthusiastically in English by both the adults as the Chorus and the youth as Children. James Birchall was an impressive baritone and Philip Hague’s timpani solo was fun. They were supported by John Kitchen on St Cuthbert’s organ. Much of the text is from Robert Louis Stevenson; to it the composer added The Instructions to the Bell Rock Light Keepers, 1828. This was my second hearing of a very pleasing work.

After the interval the adults sung Duruflé’s Requiem completed in 1947 in memory of his father and based on Fauré’s setting. The baritone James Birchall was joined by the very talented mezzo-soprano Beth Mackay whilst Morley Whitehead played the organ. It came over as a well prepared but not too sombre ending to an inspirational evening’s music.

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