An ambitious programme which Cadenza pulled off in some style in what was a superb evening of choral music

Highly Recommended Show

Cadenza has developed a deserved reputation as one of Scotland’s finest mixed voice choirs in the twenty-five 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 another packed Greyfriar’s Kirk amply demonstrated. This was their final engagement with guest conductor and Interim Director of Music Libby Crabtree and what a send-off they provided her with an excellent programme delivered with a sound and style to match the best in choral music.

This year’s programme featured an a cappella and an accompanied piece in each half of the concert and got underway with a stirring rendition of Elgar’s Lux Aeterna, a choral setting of Nimrod taken from his Enigma Variations and arranged by John Cameron. And the choir hit top form from the start, with a beautifully reflective opening, building to a sound that soared around this iconic Edinburgh venue, culminating in a truly powerful and moving requiem aeternam.

The choir then tackled Scarlatti’s Stabat Mater, an ambitious choice given that it’s written for ten soloists and continuo, there is little instrumental support for the singers and the solo voices need to emerge from the polyphonic texture in order that the expressive passages in the work are appropriately emphasised. It’s a tribute to the ten voices involved and to Crabtree’s faultless direction (throughout the evening, not just in this piece) that the choir pulled off this difficult work with aplomb, with crisp, bright entries, superb diction and a rousing Amen with which to conclude. And whilst it’s perhaps invidious to single out a soloist, mention should be made of Katherine Morrow, whose nicely rounded soprano voice also featured in the Chichester Psalms later in the programme.

The only three songs Debussy wrote for unaccompanied voices started the second half, sung here as a commemoration of the centenary of his death aged just 55 in 1918, before the concert concluded with the showpiece of the evening, Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms. Bernstein was born a century ago on the day of the concert and Cadenza provided a fitting celebration of the event with a faultless performance, from the opening stanza of Ps 108 v2 (Awake psaltery and harp : I will rouse the dawn) through to the extract from Ps 133 that puts out a plea for unity, an appropriate rejoinder to us all in these troubled times. Carlo Massimo provided a moving treble solo in Ps 23 and a number of choir members provided solo voices throughout the piece, each one uniform in its quality and resonance.

This was Cadenza on top form from start to finish. Entries were precise, the balance between voices just about perfect, soloists clear and sharp, semi-choir supportive, diction at times like cut glass and there was expression and conviction in each piece. This wasn’t a choir bashing out notes, it was a choir telling a story. To great effect.

And last, but very much not least, Libby Crabtree. Her expert guidance has seen this choir really up its game. Her passion and conviction as a conductor is obvious – she lives the music. She is a superb communicator, supportive to soloists and semi-chorus alike yet she seemed almost reluctant to take credit for the enormous influence her efforts had had on the quality of the music we all so enjoyed, so keen was she to ensure that the soloists, choir and musicians involved all got the applause they deserved.

This was an ambitious programme but Cadenza pulled it off in some style in what was a superb evening of choral music. The knowledgeable Greyfriars audience seemed to concur judging from their prolonged and sustained applause. Roll on the 2019 concert. Highly recommended!

Tim Wilcock
Cadenza at the Fringe (Saturday 25th August 2018)