Karaoke carols a great success by Choral

ACCORDING to the BBC, 2012 was the year of the choir.

Under the influence of Gareth Malone’s talents and enthusiasm, choirs are springing up everywhere. There’s an offshoot of the military wives phenomenon down the road at Condor.

So it was good to share in a singing celebration with our own Montrose and District Choral Society at their Christmas concert.

And no better place for the traditional religious theme than the Old Kirk at the heart of our town.

The church was warmly decked for the festive time, and Peter Strachan’s Powerpoint presentations of the carol words were seasonably decorated.

Indeed, that visual aid was an essential part of the evening. This year’s audience was invited to join in, not just for a couple of items but for half the programme.

It was surely karaoke carols, and most people seemed to enter into the spirit.

This was largely due to the infectious, encouraging style of the choral society’s musical director, Ralph Jamieson. The discipline of his choir showed that Ralph is no soft touch, but he ran Sunday’s concert with an infectious sense of humour.

He was full of interesting asides about the items and their composers.

Once again, conductor and singers were splendidly supported on organ and keyboard by Arthur Balfour. When he accompanied the choir on the spirited Ilkley Moor version of the familiar ‘While Shepherds Watched their Flocks’, I realised how much I miss the regular jazz evenings at the Links Hotel.

In more serious vein, the society moved us with their performance of the Schubert ‘Ave Maria’.

Hearing these age-old Catholic words echoing round the Old Kirk made me think of my friend, that great Church of Scotland minister Dr Ian Fraser.

He wrote an article ‘On rediscovering Mary for the likes of us’.

Again in Latin, the choir gave a good account of their hard rehearsal work, in performing the ‘Sanctus’ and ‘Benedictus’ from a William Byrd mass.

In two other items new to me, ‘Baloo Lammy’, the lullaby tone and gentleness was well expressed.

And ‘So Many Stars’ by Lin Marsh conveyed all the mystery of the big, eternal questions that surface for all of us, religious or not, if we take time to think at all.

And Christmas is such a time.

But what fun we had. We heard for example that the student Ralph Jamieson had a holiday job as a butler.

Teaching us the ‘Sans Day Carol’, he gave us a lovely solo from the podium which got spontaneous applause.

And when he produced a can of Irn Bru for a specially-written verse of ‘We’re Walking in the Air’, the light-hearted tone was well set for the final item, ‘Can’t Believe it’s Christmas’.

That was the cue for the singers to don an array of straw hats, sun glasses and fans, and to sing from memory.

A red card to the soprano who had the words written on the back of the fan!

With an audience who had sung and enjoyed themselves so much, surely the choral society can expect to welcome new members when they reassemble for rehearsal on January 9. Preparing for their spring concert on April 14, they may hope that 2013 will be the year of the choir in Montrose.

And what about Irn Bru sponsorship?