Review: Falkirk Festival Chorus triumphs in annual show

Soloist Jessica Leary shone in the concert
Soloist Jessica Leary shone in the concert
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This year’s Tryst Festival got underway with Falkirk Festival Chorus’s annual spring concert on Sunday.

Under the direction of Robert Tait, they presented Haydn’s so-called Nelson Mass, named after his historic victory over Napoleon at the Battle of the Nile coincidently the day of the music’s first performance.

The uncertainty of the times is reflected in the opening Kyrie, with a sense of foreboding enhanced by the interjections of soprano, Jessica Leary. Her pure tones carried well, with the sympathetic support of the Scottish Concert Orchestra – leader, Ben Buurman – who played with confidence and sensitivity. This same discipline was reflected in the Festival Choir with their many choruses and all that hard work at rehearsals paid off; these fugal passages require great concentration.

The Mass changes mood in the Credo and is brighter and more optimistic. Jessica, the soprano again shone, well supported by the other of soloists – Lynda-Jane Nelson (mezzo-soprano), Luperci de Souza (tenor), Arshak Kuzikayan (bass). There was outstanding playing by the oboe and the timpani added dramatic colour in places. Bright up-beat chorus singing finished the first half.

The second, devoted to opera choruses, opened with the lively and testing overture, Russlan and Ludmilla (Glinka) played brilliantly by the orchestra. Following this, Bob Tait briefly explained the background to each item. Soloist Lynda-Jane Nelson sang Dido’s Lament in her rich mezzo voice, the deep-felt passion of the piece rounded off by the chorus. The choir followed with the Voyager’s Chorus from Mozart’s Idomeneo, with soprano, Jessica, in its middle section. Then followed the Anvil Chorus (Il Trovatori by Verdi) complete with anvil.

Next came ‘The Waltz Scene’ from Eugene Onegin by Tchaikovsky with its swirling, almost sinister rhythm with the two protagonist, played by Luperci de Sousa (tenor) and Arshak Kuzikayan (bass) exchanging insults and hostile looks most convincingly. The programme was rounded of with the vibrant Roman Carnival from Benvenuto Cellini. The chorus and soloists gave an exuberant rendering of the Carnival ending with a stream of party poppers and the reception from the audience was such they all repeated the performance.

This was another triumph for Bob Tait, Chorus, soloists and orchestra and a fitting opening to the Falkirk Tryst Festival. I look forward to more.