Concert review: Edinburgh Royal Choral Union: Christmas with the Choral St Cuthbert’s Church

Members of the Edinburgh Royal Choral Union. Picture: Jane Barlow
Members of the Edinburgh Royal Choral Union. Picture: Jane Barlow
Share this article
Have your say

EDINBURGH Choral Union, oldest of the city’s choirs, was formally instituted on November 25, 1858.

Permission was granted to use the designation Royal in 1911.

Although there were regular public appearances from the outset, only a handful of programmes survive as evidence of what was sung at concerts throughout the first half-dozen years.

The stated aim was to meet for “practice of Oratorios and other large works of Handel, Beethoven, Haydn, Mendelssohn, etc”.

For the most part, however, founding choristers of the mid-19th century concerned themselves at first with smaller-scale repertoire – part songs, glees and a chorus or two from this or that.

The main contribution made by ERCU to music of the Festive Season is, of course, its annual Messiah performance. It took a while before that came to be scheduled around the turn of the year.

Yesterday evening’s Christmas with the Choral gave an opportunity for the recently established Edinburgh Youth Choir to perform in partnership with its senior counterpart.

The junior group provides training for young singers in a variety of styles.

Its sopranos, in particular, showed to good advantage in a number of items.

The programme consisted of choral and congregational music – not forgetting a couple of readings.

Carol concerts can seem interminable, but this one kept bright and did not outstay its welcome.

Four well-known Christmas hymns were accompanied in exemplary fashion by Morley Whitehead. He also provided two splendid organ solos, the first of which was Three [fun] verses on “Away in a Manger”.

After some slightly tentative entries in their opening group, the youth choir settled down to the neat rhythms of John Rutter’s Star Carol. Their attempt at As I outrode this Enderes Night did not come off quite as well.

Despite a false start in Ding Dong! Merrily on High, the senior choristers sang all three items in their first group very creditably. Their concluding We Wish you a Merry Christmas was excellent. The combined forces in Twelve Groovy Days of Christmas gave obvious audience satisfaction.

Conductors Michael Bawtree and Wayne Weaver performed efficiently and Joanna Stewart provided adept piano accompaniments.