Tim Wilcock, Fringe Review, wrote
in reference to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe concert in Greyfriars Kirk on Saturday 27th August 2016
Highly recommended show
Two hours of sublime music featuring Schubert, Beethoven and Cherubini from one of Scotland’s foremost choral ensembles.
Cadenza has acquired a reputation as one of Scotland’s leading mixed voice choirs in the twenty years or so it has been performing. With a repertoire that ranges from the Renaissance to the present day, the choir has performed throughout Scotland and beyond and is as comfortable singing a cappella as it is with instrument accompaniment.
They’re a fixture at the Fringe and have acquired quite a following as a packed Greyfriar’s Kirk amply demonstrated. Under the musical directorship of Jenny Sumerling, this year’s offering was an ambitious programme featuring works by Schubert, Beethoven and Cherubini’s Requiem.
First up we had two Schubert pieces, Gebet and Gott ist mein Hirt, better known as Psalm 23. This presented a challenging start for the choir particularly the sopranos and tenors who were pushed to the upper limits of their respective ranges (and in some cases beyond) but careful attention to the complex dynamics and diction ensured that both pieces were well executed.
Where things really took off, however, was in the Beethoven Fantasia in C Minor, his “Choral Fantasy”, arguably also a significant contributor to his later Ode to Joy. Pianist Richard Beauchamp and the invited Cadenza Fringe Orchestra were a revelation, creating a musical dialogue that suggested they had been playing this piece together for years, rather than having joined forces a short time before the concert. Beauchamp’s interpretation was playful, almost conversational, encouraging a similar response in turn from every group of instruments in what was a musical masterclass.
The choir’s radiant entry was seamless, just as the piece demands. And, just when you thought that they might be sagging a little and in danger of becoming a little leaden footed, so Sumerling showed the choir the refreshing cuppa awaiting at the finish line and let nature and their instincts take over in what was a stirring, rousing finale. Inspiring, uplifting orchestration and singing that rattled the Greyfriars’ rafters.
Post-interval we had a delightful rendition of Cherubini’s Requiem in C minor with a reverential tone prevailing in the largely homophonic choral intonations in the Introit and Kyrie followed by a reflective, gentle Graduale. I was particularly impressed by the choir’s delivery of Dies Irae – alternately threatening, strident, passionate and resolute. Too often choirs focus on bashing out the black dots, forgetting about the emotional content of the music they are signing. Not here, you knew exactly how this lot felt. And the Lacrimosa dies illa was also sung to great effect, the haunting chromatic harmonies enhanced by some delicate, muffled timpani.
Perhaps there were a couple of moments when the male voices seemed a little hesitant and perhaps occasionally the female voices seemed a touch strident but these are trifles in what was an uplifting, moving and high quality rendition of some complex music. I’ve already put their 2017 Fringe date in my diary. So should you.
Tim Wilcock, Fringe Review, wrote
in reference to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe concert in Greyfriars Kirk on Saturday 15th August 2015
Highly recommended show
A very impressive concert overall simply blew my boots off!
Very much a concert of two halves. First up, pieces from Tippett and Vaughan Williams that fitted comfortably into the Cadenza sweet spot. But then? A genuine “Fringe surprise moment” with a wondrous Scottish premiere of Will Todd’s Mass in Blue.
Cadenza has acquired a reputation as one of Scotland’s leading mixed voice choirs in the twenty years or so it has been performing. With a repertoire that ranges from the Renaissance to the present day, the choir has performed throughout Scotland and beyond.
They’re a fixture at the Fringe and have acquired quite a following as a packed Greyfriar’s Kirk amply demonstrated. Under the musical directorship this year of Philip Redfern, the concert featured an opening half comprising Five Negro Spirituals from Michael Tippett and a Mass in G Minor from Ralph Vaughan Williams. Both these pieces provided ample opportunity for the choir to showcase its own soloists as well giving the ensemble plenty to get their collective teeth into in what were, overall, two very well put together pieces of music.
Tippett’s spirituals contained some lovely dynamics and the crystal clear soprano voice of Lynn Samuel enhanced both By and By and Deep River. Steal Away was sung with conviction and gentleness and though Nobody Knows took a while to stutter into life, Go Down, Moses was sung with spirit.
Vaughan Williams Gloria allowed Helen Heattie and Neil Whyte to demonstrate the clarity and resonance of their voices (Greyfriars is a large Kirk to sing solo in) and the Kyrie, Credo and Sanctus showed the choir at its best – flowing, expressive and precise. Unfortunately, however, the train came off the rails as the interval approached (were the singers in need of a cuppa, I wonder?) as the Agnus Dei got off to a couple of false starts with a soloist trying to do his own thing in a different key to that which the composer intended, an unusual blemish from what is generally such a polished choir.
No matter. Someone must have stuck something in the interval tea, or maybe sprinkled something on the choir’s biscuits because the second half of what was a very impressive concert overall simply blew my boots off, to coin a well-known musical expression. The Scottish premiere of Will Todd’s Mass in Blue represented a radical departure from Cadenza’s normal fare, taking them way out of their comfort zone and the combination of a jazz blues quartet mixed with a standard mass text could easily have ended quite horribly in tears.
That it didn’t is a tribute to the quality of Todd’s music, his and his quartet’s playing and the ability of this choir to loosen up and swing with the best of them. Oh, and the wonderful, amazing Joanna Forbes L’Estrange. Did I mention her? Voice like an angel that has power when she needs it, expression, clarity, can soar to the top of any vaulted ceiling and a range that allows her to hit top B flats for fun. She could probably go higher if required – an incredible sound, so suited to the music that Todd might have written it for just for her. L’Estrange was as happy jamming it to a 12 bar blues as she was with the more structured parts of the piece. To her wall of sound was added that of the choir’s, so the overall effect was one of the music surrounding you. Yet when we needed calm and subtly (for example, in the Sanctus) we got it.
Now, I love jazz, bop, boogie and so on. But I was a little concerned that the silver haired brigade which makes up a lot of the core Cadenza audience wouldn’t know what to do with this work, wouldn’t know whether to applaud between movements, whether foot tapping was allowed and so on. Not a bit of it. The only thing that prevented the whole lot of them getting up and boogieing with the best of them was the lack of space. And, judging by the cries for an encore, I guess they’d have been happy to have heard it all over again. I would. I just hope someone performs it again up here sometime soon please!
David Smythe, Bachtrack, wrote
in reference to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe concert in Greyfriars Kirk on Saturday 15th August 2015
Jazzy Blue Spirits as Cadenza comes of age at the Edinburgh Fringe
Composer Will Todd explained that his Mass in Blue fused his passions of choral music, the Mass and jazz. It is a delicate balance to get right, as the Mass, even with its more jubilant moments, is a deeply serious, sacred spiritual rite, not always an easy bedfellow with jazzy exhilaration. Todd, at the piano, heading up the Brian Molley Quartet for this work, encouraged both performers and audience to relax and be joyous.
Cadenza is a busy 50 strong mixed choir drawn from across Central Scotland, and interim musical director Philip Redfern has taken this ensemble in new directions during his year of tenure, as shown by this adventurous and ambitious programme of modern spiritual works. While Mass in Blue was written in 2003, this is the first time it has been heard in Scotland, and the composer’s participation turned this Edinburgh Fringe concert into something of an event.
Michael Tippett’s Five Negro Spirituals from A Child of Our Time, like the chorales in Bach’s Passions, provide welcome solace in the bleakness of his oratorio. Taken out of context, they still work well as a concert piece, and opening the evening allowed the choir to show off its rich blended sound underpinned with a gorgeous deep bass line. We may know the tunes well, but this piece is a challenging sing for a choir with multiple parts and each spiritual calling for soloists, or ‘leaders’ from the choir to take critical roles. While some solos were more successful than others, the choral balance, crisp diction and lively dynamics made this a sprightly opener, all sung a cappella and without scores.
Vaughan Williams Mass in G minor is a work written for an unaccompanied double choir and semi chorus, and with its ever-shifting and intertwining lines, a huge challenge for an amateur choir to take on. Written in 1922, the links to the pastoral music Vaughan Williams was writing at this time are unmissable with rich polyphonic harmonies, demonstrated here by the slow Kyrie as each part joined the others weaving into in a rapturous tapestry of sound. Each section calls for a semi chorus, here sung by democratically chosen different combinations of walk-out singers from the choir producing a range of results. The best came from when the choir was in full flow, producing a glorious finish to the Credo or a quiet intensity to the lovely Agnes Dei, sounding wonderful in the acoustic of the historic and packed Greyfriars Church.
Many famous jazz and blues singers started off their careers singing every Sunday in church, but while the sacred has fascinated jazz composers, success has been more elusive, Ellington’s Sacred Music and more recently Harvey Brough’s Requiem in Blue being examples. Todd’s Mass in Blue deserves to join this elite list, as he has successfully captured both the high and reflective moments in the Mass, although it was still odd to hear words treated in a solemn fashion every week suddenly being scat-sung by the stratospheric soprano Joannna Forbes l’Estrange, and parts of the Gloria belted out by the choir to a foot-tapping 5/8 rhythm. The music was joyous throughout, from the opening infectious 4/4 groove pulse from piano, bass and drums as Brian Molley breathed bluesy sax sounds. Watching the singers grapple with the unfamiliar, their enjoyment and smiles grew as they got to grips with blue notes, syncopations, driving rhythms and just let the music take over.
Each movement was different in style, including a haunting jazz ballad in the Sanctus, though most had exuberant endings, even including the Agnes Dei as the Credo was reprised to give the work a high-spirited finish. It was interesting to watch Philip Redfern conducting, drawing the best from the singers, but watching Todd like a hawk as he wandered off into brilliant improvisations, making things even more exciting when the music finally came round and the choir and soloist came blasting back in. Sound balance was a little tricky as piano, bass and soprano were miked and the sheer noise almost overwhelmed the singers at times, but I was delighted to hear this thrilling work, a truly joyous Edinburgh Fringe coming of age concert for the Cadenza choir.
Hannah Lucy Baker, BroadwayBaby.com, wrote
in reference to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe concert in Greyfriars Kirk on Saturday 23rd August 2014
A beautifully rich sound that fills the space
Greyfriars Kirk was the perfect setting for this Edinburgh based choir’s return to the Fringe after sellout shows in previous years. Originally founded in 1992, Cadenza has come to be regarded as one of the best Scottish choirs around at the moment, with some members travelling from outside of the Edinburgh area to take part. The concert at the Kirk is their largest of the year and they are accompanied by an orchestra and chamber organ.
They had promised that their rendition of Lotti’s Missa a Tre Cori was going to be one of the highlights of the show and indeed it certainly shone within the repertoire. This choir produce a beautifully rich sound that fills the space and is perfectly accompanied. They manage an ethereal sound that brilliantly encompasses the genre.
Bach’s moving and almost sombre Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen was perfectly performed and raised the hairs on the back of my neck. The soloists within this concert were excellent, however it really is their ensemble singing that makes this group shine. The harmonies are balanced and full of tone and the dynamics created throughout were outstanding.
This kind of concert is not for the faint hearted, as it is fairly long in comparison to many other Fringe shows. Cadenza at the Fringe, however, is well worth the wait and an excellent end to any Fringe programme.
Dunblane Cathedral Arts Guild writing on their Facebook page about Cadenza’s concert in the Cathedral on 11th May which closed the 2012-2013 programme.
The last concert of this season was truly wonderful and Cadenza wowed the audience with their sheer musicality. It was a great evening and the Arts Guild are impressed enough to think about asking them back. In the meantime, the choir is also singing in the Edinburgh Fringe in August but remember you heard them here first!
The Guild’s concert organiser also emailed the choir after the concert
“Everyone thoroughly enjoyed Cadenza’s concert and the high standard was impressive. The programme did indeed offer something for everyone, and Jenny’s succinct introductions put the music in context without distracting from the performance. We look forward to hearing you again in the future.” 13th May 2013
Alistair Massey writing about “Bright Star: Cadenza at Christmas” for the Aberdeen Advertiser.
“The CD is a very fine one, and in the review I rather took it for granted how well sung the carols were. I was particularly impressed with the innovative choice of titles and could have said more about the superb quality of ensemble in the choir’s singing.” Alistair Massey, January 2013
CD OF CHRISTMAS CAROLS FEATURES LOCAL COMPOSER
‘Bright Star’ is a collection of carols by Cadenza, a choir that was founded in 1992 and is based in the Edinburgh area. It is considered to be one of Scotland’s finest mixed amateur choirs. The choir has gained critical acclaim for its performances of various composers at the Edinburgh Fringe and has been broadcast on BBC Radio 3, Radio 4 and Radio Scotland. It has helped to support a wide range of charities.
Four of the carols on the CD were prizewinners in a carol competition organised by the Waverley Care charity, which received 129 entries. Included in the winners with the Caledonian Hilton Audience Prize was Inverurie composer, John Hearne’s There’s a Song in the Air. Waverley Care is an HIV and Hepatitis C Charity and the event raised £7,000.
Their Musical Director of Cadenza since 2000 has been Jenny Sumerling, who is a graduate of Cambridge and London and Principal Teacher for Music and the performing Arts at Portobello High School. Amongst her many projects, she has prepared children to work with the Swingle Singers. Cadenza is ably accompanied on the organ and piano by Morley Whitehead, who was Assistant Organist of St Giles Cathedral before he became Organist and Choirmaster at Morningside Parish Church. In addition to accompanying a number of musical organisations in the city and being a freelance player, he is a Music Specialist at Edinburgh’s Reid Music Library.
In a well-balanced and clear recording, the CD presents a spectrum of moods from the joyous to the contemplative in a compilation of twenty-two carols. Some are well known, such as Silent Night and Ding Dong! Merrily on High with well-crafted arrangements by American composers, Stephen Paulus and Mack Wilberg. Others are completely new settings of older words, giving new life to Tomorrow Shall be my Dancing Day by Malcolm Archer and Hodie Christus Natus Est by Andrew Carter. Two lady composers, Stef Conner’s prizewinning This Endris Night and Elizabeth Posten’s rocking Bululalow are paired together thoughtfully to focus on the central image of the nativity. Among those carols arranged by Scottish composers are the Scots Nativity by Alan Bullard and the gentle arrangement of the Gaelic carol Taladh Chriosta by John Hearne, which was originally written for the students of Aberdeen College of Education.
Another prize winner, John Lawson Baker, an architect who is a self-taught composer, manages to conjure up a Biblical scene in his Behold the Great Creator. Good and evil are suggested by contrasting modes and tempo. The malicious aspect of the Christmas story, rarely seen in nativity plays, is emphasised again by the beautiful setting of the Coventry Carol by Kenneth Leighton. The solo voice in its vulnerable top range laments, almost cries, for “her doomed child” against the choir shouting Herod’s rage. The slaughter of innocents is nothing new.
‘Bright Star’ was produced by David Goodenough and Adam Binks and was recorded at St Cuthbert’s Parish Church, Edinburgh. It is available at Touched by Scotland.
David Mellor on the Reviews page for his New Releases Show, Classic FM
in reference to broadcasting track 2, ‘Bright Star’ on Saturday 15 December 2012
Bright Star is a collection of lovely contemporary Christmas carols. 10 of the 22 tracks are world premiere recordings and I particularly like the title track Bright Star by Ben Parry – I find this album very pleasing indeed.
See also our News Item on 16th December.
Phil Sommerich for Classical Music Magazine, 1 December 2012
in reference to the ‘Bright Star – Cadenza at Christmas’
Contemporary carols are a welcome surprise in the festive release from Edinburgh choir Cadenza. Why not sink it to the bottom of a loved one’s stocking in a few weeks’ time?
As a rule, Scots tend not to celebrate Christmas with quite the enthusiasm seen further south, reserving their festive spirit(s) for New Year’s Eve. Not so Edinburgh-based choral group Cadenza, which has released Bright Star – Cadenza at Christmas, an eclectic collection of 22 carols.
“We don’t have the tradition of Nine Lessons and Carols that you have in the Church of England, so composers don’t have the same platform for which to write,” says Jenny Sumerling, Cadenza’s artistic director. ‘But it does not mean that they don’t write for Christmas.’
She heard a recording of early Scottish carols by Cappella Nova and that, combined with Cadenza’s tradition of commissioning works from Scottish composers, offered the basis of the album. Sumerlings’ involvement in judging the international carol competition run by the charity Waverley Care in 2010 widened her remit. “It attracted entries from all over the world and the youngest entrant was nine and the oldest 90. We were lucky enough to perform the final six carols.” Four of the six are on the album and two are published in OUP’s much-awaited Carols for Choirs 5 (this season sees the second annual outing for no doubt already dog-eared books up and down the country).
Sumerling has found a local flavour in some of the Scottish carols. “There is the influence of some of the words from the Gaelic – lulay, lulay has been set by lots of composers – and there is the modal feel in a lot of the carols. Even some of the non-Scottish composers, such as Alan Bullard with his beautiful Scots Nativity, set a traditional Scottish text with that lilting feel that is typically Scottish. And Elizabeth Poston, who was instrumental in helping to set up Radio 3, wrote a lovely Balulalow.”
Some of Sumerling’s favourites on the disc come from further afield. Ben Parry, Cadenza’s patron and newly appointed director of the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain, wrote the album’s title work for the choir, and American composer Stephen Paulus’ arrangement of Silent Night is a major find, she says. He is very well known in the United States and I think he will be the next Eric Whitacre, so we were surprised to find we were the first choir to record that arrangement.”
She hopes the accessible nature of the carols will encourage other choirs to take them up – and that the quality of the works will see the recording played well beyond Hogmanay.
David Knowles, Broadway Baby, wrote
in reference to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe concert on Saturday 25th August 2012
This concert from Cadenza (an amateur choir founded in 1992) at Greyfriars Kirk proved to be a beautiful evening of accomplished music from both the choir and orchestra. In the calm and balanced space of the kirk it was in the Little Organ Mass by Haydn that the orchestra and choir really started flexing their musical muscles. The choir managed to fill the entire space with accurate harmonies but still allowed the soloists to soar majestically over the top. Wilma Macdonald stole the first half with a softly and remarkably poised recitation of the Benedictus.
The second half of the concert comprised only of Mozart’s Vesperae Solennes de Confessore. I must confess to never having heard the piece before and I was blown away by the skill and dexterity of the choir handling such important texts. Performing Mozart or the works of other famous composers can be a double edged sword. On the one hand the music is indeed likely to be of an incredibly high quality, on the other, with such famous music, there is extra pressure to sing and play it perfectly. The quality that Cadenza demonstrated in their singing meant that the audience never felt short-changed and the they demonstrated their appreciation with several minutes’ worth of applause. Sterling stuff.
Josie Balfour, Edinburgh Evening News, wrote
in reference to Carols by Candlelight, Usher Hall, Wednesday 23rd December 2009
THERE was a sense of pomp at the Usher Hall last night. The performers of Carols By Candlelight not only dressed for the occasion, but quite literally pulled out all the stops with a series of melodies ideally suited to the venue’s 97-year-old organ too.
The second in a double bill of favourite Christmas music presented by theatre promoter Raymond Gubbay, Tuesday evening playing host to a relatively modern ‘White Christmas’ theme, Carols By Candlelight adhered firmly to a very Victorian image of Christmas entertainment and was all the better for it.
Performing a light and engaging set comprised of excerpts of Handel, Bach and Mozart interspersed with festive classics such as O Come All Ye Faithful and Once In Royal David’s City, the ensemble created a warm, jovial atmosphere.
Somewhat more straight laced than Tuesday’s ebullient cast, there was still room for an opening run of truly awful stand-up jokes from conductor Gareth Hancock and a little physical comedy from soloist Gail Pearson as she made space for her immense skirts.
Clad in a burgundy 18th century hooped gown to match the finery of the bewigged and stockinged Mozart Festival Orchestra, Pearson managed her parts with confidence and grace. Her final piece, Handel’s Let The Bright Seraphim, allowed the soprano to show off her voice as she delicately worked through the demands of the score.
Taking the evening firmly in hand, Hancock had a tight reign on the orchestra as well as enticing an excellent performance from amateur choir Cadenza. Following Hancock’s cues remarkably well, Cadenza came into their own with a series of beautifully constructed harmonies, particularly during the better known carols; Walford Davies’ arrangement of The Holly And The Ivy standing out for its intricacy and a delightful solo from one of their number for the beginning of Silent Night.
Working the audience in much the same firm, yet friendly, manner with which he treated the ensemble, Hancock guided the crowd through 11 popular carols with the aid of song sheets and some competitive encouragement, especially during the two-part vocal division of Good King Wenceslas.
The laid-back enthusiasm of the audience, however, rather made Hancock’s early, woeful attempts at Christmas puns rather redundant.
Supporting the production with a cohesive and assured sense of unity, the orchestra provided an outstanding rendition of Corelli’s Allegro and Pastorale from Christmas Concerto led by First Violinist Steven Wilkie. Their seasoned performance formed a firm bedrock for the ensemble to work from, creating a harmonious and well balanced sound. Organist Jonathan Scott’s contribution, on the harpsichord and organ, dovetailed well with the strings and percussion rather than competing for space.
There will always be an argument for the passing down of Silent Night and Hark The Herald Angels, on a dodgy piano over mulled wine in an eccentric relative’s living room, but Carols By Candlelight succeeded in giving a sublime introduction to the original staging of the music as well as providing period context.
Even if it does involve the orchestra putting on the sort of outfit that encourages one to start making sneaky Scarlet Pimpernel jokes during quiet moments.
Marianne Gunn, The Herald, wrote
in reference to Carols by Candlelight, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, 22nd December 2009
Playing in period costume, the Mozart Festival Orchestra formed in 1991 and has been doing the rounds ever since. Conductor Gareth Hancock was, on first impression, far more suave than the previous evening’s maestro but what he lacked was the festive charisma and captivation, which he replaced with pretty dire jokes. His Subjunctive Clause gag was the nadir of the evening, closely followed by his wry observations about the expenses scandal (Ding Dong Immorally on High) and Tiger Woods (Come All Ye Unfaithful).
Back to the music, it was a typical selection of Christmas tunes, with some familiar classics such as Bach’s Air on the G String and Handel’s Messiah (Christmas sequence) and Zadok the Priest.
Cadenza provided the choral vocals and their very full and rich sound complemented the instrumentation. Dressed in vibrant red robes they were the most festive thing about the concert: their Deck the Halls, Silent Night and The Holly and the Ivy (all sung a cappella) were the musical highlights, with lovely pitch, tone and diction.
Bathed in candlelight, soloist Gail Pearson took to the stage in a russet corseted number to sing Mozart’s Alleluia from Exsultate, Jubilate, which wasn’t sung with as light a touch as Let the Bright Seraphim later in the programme; this was in turn lifted by Neil Fulton’s contrapuntal trumpet playing. Orchestra leader Steven Wilkie also deserved a mention for his first violin performance in Corelli’s Allegro and Pastorale (Christmas Concerto) which had a lovely balance with the harpsichord counterpoint.
The biggest shortcoming however was, again, the lack of crowd and carolling participation (although the former may have been due to the inclement weather and the latter was hindered by the candlelight adjustment itself).
Conrad Wilson, The Herald, wrote
in reference to the concert in Greyfriars Kirk on 19.8.06:
A cadenza is a solo spot, small or large, in a concerto or vocal work. From it, Edinburgh’s Cadenza – a smallish choir with large ideas – has attractively derived its name, contributing to the Festival Fringe in ways that are not only genuinely interesting but require few allowances to be made. Saturday’s packed-out concert, in the resonance of Greyfriars Kirk, coupled the remains of a mass by the gifted Jan Dismas Zelenka with Mozart’s unfinished Requiem, an inspired juxtaposition from which each work benefited.
Zelenka, born just before Bach, was a quirky Bohemian whose Missa dei Filla (Mass for the Son of God) was receiving its Edinburgh premiere. Based mainly on a massive, multi-faceted Gloria, the music possessed a contrapuntal elan and often startling expressiveness, vigorously conveyed by Jenny Sumerling’s sterling vocal and orchestral forces.
To the Mozart, too, they brought notable freshness, particularly because they performed it in Richard Maunder’s starker, tighter version of the 1980s, which deleted the familiar Sussmayr Sanctus and Benedictus in order to concentrate as far as possible on Mozart himself.
Wilma McDougall, Louise Innes, Jamie MacDougall and Edward Caswell were the well-balanced solo quartet.
Conrad Wilson, The Herald, wrote (on 23.8.05)
(in reference the concert in Greyfriars Kirk on 20.8.05)
Rossini’s Petite Messe Solonnelle
There are times when a dedicated fringe performance can surpass a routine official one, and here was something which rose to the occasion. Rossini’s Little Solemn Mass, as the saying goes, is not so small and not so solemn. But it is worth treating seriously, as it was by Jenny Sumerling and the Scottish choristers she assembles each year under the name of Cadenza.
Voiced at sunset in the atmospheric surroundings of Greyfriars, the music made an intimate but ardent impression, not at all eccentric or whimsical, as some people think it to be, but eloquent and strangely obsessive, an inspired product of the composer’s last years, when he had turned his back on opera.
Coming as close as she could to Rossini’s original intentions, Sumerling shunned the soupy orchestral version in favour of assorted keyboards, with Philip Sawyer as the wonderfully sonorous harmonium player and Margaret Wakeford a sympathetic pianist.
As light faded behind the blue stained glass window, the performance gained in intensity, with Louise Innes, among the quartet of soloists, bringing the Agnus Dei to a moving close.
The inclusion of Peter Maxwell Davies’s The Kestrel Road, commissioned by 47 British choirs in celebration of his 70th birthday, was a beautiful bonus.
Alasdair Maclean, Scots Magazine wrote (in February 2005)
(In reference to Voices of Joy)
Voices of Joy
Voices of Joy is a CD that “does exactly what it says on the tin”. Cadenza is a choir based in Scotland’s Home Counties, i.e., round Edinburgh and Lothians way, who do their thing for a variety of charitable causes, as well as participating in the Festival Fringe, touring extensively, and gaining renown at choral competitions.
This collection was recorded in St Mary’s Church, Haddington, and items range from Poulenc to Burns and Cole Porter.
The whole album is beautifully executed, and it’s also nice to note the “happy sound”, demonstrating that you can still enjoy something you take seriously and excel in. And talking of taking things seriously, one wonders what Haddington’s most famous son, Maister John Knox, would have thought of the rather “high church” opening tracks and the evocation of saints’ names…
Charlie Napier, www.edinburghguide.com wrote (on 18-08-2003)
(In reference to Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh)
Cadenza (page 84) World Premiere
Drams 0 = excellent
Music Ken Johnston: Song for St Cecilia; O Columba (World premiere); Fauré: Cantique de Jean Racine, Ave Verum (Op.65 No.1), Tantum Ergo (Op.65 No.2); Requiem
Musicians Cadenza (Mixed voices choir); Philomusica with Daphne Godson (violin); Clair Debono (soprano), Jared Holt (baritone), Stephen Doughty (organ), Jenny Sumerling (Conductor).
Venue Greyfriars Kirk (Venue 131).
Address Greyfriars Place, Candlemaker Row
Reviewer Charlie Napier
This was an event full of quietness, serenity. spirituality, the sadness of death and yet the hope of the life hereafter. Although officially listed as a “concert”, which suggests a staged performance (as, of course, it really was), it did not come over as such, it came over more as a contemplation on the power of music over the soul, a prayer for help in getting through life, and, to quote Fauré himself, “Death as a happy deliverance, an aspiration towards happiness above, rather than a painful experience.” This was one time when the music said it all, complemented, of course, by the accompanying words.
The outstanding feature of this event was the music itself, which was beautifully presented by the mixed voice choir, Cadenza, under the excellent leadership of Jenny Sumerling, and ably accompanied for a greater part of the event by Stephen Doughty on the magnificent organ. Jenny controlled the choir with great sensitivity and Stephen’s accompaniment was controlled, balanced and supportive – there, but not intrusive. Where Philomusica was involved, it too added its voice to the songs of prayer and praise without being intrusive or too obvious. The soloists, Daphne Godson (violin), Claire Debono (soprano) and Jared Holt (baritone), although they did not play major parts, provided significant and sensitive contributions which all added to the overall sound picture.
The event opened with the original version, for double choir and organ, of Ken Johnston’s Song for St Cecilia. This was written in 1998 and later orchestrated for an East Lothian Millennium concert. It uses the words of a poem by John Dryden, written in 1687, that celebrates the power of music and praises the patron saint of music, St Cecilia. With its melodic lines and gentle harmonies, this was a beautiful prelude to the other works that followed.
Philomusica joined the choir for the first of the three Fauré works that followed. The Cantique de Jean Racine uses the words of one of Racine’s Cantiques spirituels that he wrote in later life when he had abandoned the theatre for a more austere and spiritual life. This is a prayer to Jesus Christ for mercy, help, and guidance as well as being a hymn of praise. It was the latter aspect that Fauré concentrated on. The two works that form Fauré’s Opus 65 are standard prayers, set to suitable music. The Ave Verum was sung by the ladies of the Choir with organ accompaniment, and the Tantum Ergo by the whole choir.
The world premiere of Ken Johnston’s new work O Columba, completed the first half. This is a work for unaccompanied mixed voice chorus, based on plainsong chants and words discovered in a manuscript, now in Edinburgh University Library, that was written on the island of Inchcolme about the end of the 13th century. These appear to be unique chants, and Ken has used these to produce the stunning choral work which is a hymn of praise to St Columba as well as a prayer for his assistance to the Scots people.
This work lasted about 20 minutes and is sheer musical joy from beginning to end. Although based on plainsong chants, which appear throughout the work in one form or another, they are not immediately obvious and they do not sound as one would expect plainchant to sound. Using traditional four-part harmonies, a quiet opening section leads into a contrapuntal section and then a louder section that, after reaching a climax, returns to the opening musical ideas, set to the Latin words which translate as “Columba, hope of the Scots, make us consorts of the blessed angels by the assistance of your services.” What a fitting way to close this prayer, especially in the setting of the Kirk of the Greyfriars. This is certainly going to be a significant addition to the choral repertoire and I hope that it will be repeated very soon, and recorded.
The second half was taken up with a presentation of the 1893 version of Fauré’s Requiem, one of the most spiritual and beautiful pieces of music ever written. Sensitively presented by all participants, words are really inadequate to describe the effect on the packed audience.
© Charlie Napier, 16 August 2003. Published on www.edinburghguide.com
www.threeweeks.co.uk wrote (on 21-08-2003)
(In reference to Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh)
This popular Edinburgh amateur choir would not have been disappointed with the turnout for this programme of music by Fauré and local composer KenJohnston, including the first performance of the newly commissioned work ‘O Columba’.We started with Johnston’s ‘Song for St. Cecilia’ which brought out some beautiful colours and fruity suspensions. Scored for double choir, the 40-strong chorus was perhaps overwhelmed by the organ in the first movement but was perfectly balanced in the a capella third. In the ‘Cantique de Jean Racine’ I would have preferred staggered breathing in order to propel forward the continuous flowing base line. Based on manuscripts found at Inchcolm Abbey on the Firth of Forth island, the premiere used the choir gently with simple melodies from the plainchant layered on top of each other to good effect. The performance of Fauré’s Requiem was competent but standard and featured solos from Claire DeBono and Jared Holt, although Daphne Godson did not sparkle in the ethereal solo violin part..
Greyfriars Kirk, 16 Aug, 8.00pm (10:00pm), £12.00 (9.00), fpp 844
twrating: 3/5 [ggwe]
Teesdale Mercury wrote (on 06-03-2002)
(In reference to Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, Co. Durham)
The debut concert in the first season of Music at the Bowes, was greeted with enthusiastic applause from a capacity audience in the Spanish Room at the museum on Sunday, 24 February.
The Edinburgh-based Cadenza mixed voice choir – 1998 Scottish Choir of the Year – presented a programme of musical variety and rare charm. The choir demonstrated its versatility and vitality in five groups of songs that included madrigals, traditional folk songs, Scottish ballads and Rachmaninov’s Ave Maria, sung with feeling in accurately-pronounced Russian. Indeed, the diction of the choir was immaculate and the musicality of its energetic conductor, Jenny Sumerling, remarkable. By including Gibbons’ The Silver Swan in the opening group of songs, the choir paid a much-appreciated tribute to the venue.
Unfortunately, due to pressure of time, the choir had to shorten its final group of 20th century ‘songs with a swing’; their rendition of Cole Porter’s Let’s Do It, however, left the audience in no doubt that their excellent repertoire more than competently encompasses modern as well as early music.
M S, Darlington & Stockton Times wrote (on 01-03-2002)
(In reference to Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, Co. Durham)
The concert began with a memorable performance from Cadenza, a mixed voice choir based in Edinburgh, who sang a well-balanced selection of songs, madrigals and Scottish airs, ranging from Gibbons to Cole Porter, all interestingly arranged and beautifully sung. Delicate interplay between the piano and forte sections of each song had the kind of magical quality and finish usually experienced only with professional choirs.
Though amateur in status, Cadenza is without any doubt professional in talent and achievement, endorsed by its winning the Scottish Choir of the Year award in 1998. One can only hope for a return visit so those who missed them first time round will have a chance to experience the pleasure and sheer joy of listening to them.
Susan Forest, a member of the choir, is also a talented clarinet player. Accompanied by Stephen Doughty, she played the 2nd movement from the Concerto No 1 in F by Max Weber, bringing out well the liquid tones of this instrument and expertly managing the challenging arpeggios towards the end of the movement.