EIF music review: Edinburgh Festival Chorus, Edinburgh Academy Junior School

A light, easy-going performance from members of the Edinburgh Festival Chorus brought this year’s EIF to an enjoyable close, writes Ken Walton

Members of the Edinburgh Festival Chorus PIC: Gaelle Beri

Edinburgh Festival Chorus, Edinburgh Academy Junior School ****

On the final day of an Edinburgh International Festival like no other, a short programme by members of the Edinburgh Festival Chorus and instrumental ensemble bore the friendly charm of an end-of-term concert.

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It was light, easy-going and slick. Director Aidan Oliver chose wisely a varied sequence of music that worked perfectly with his much-reduced forces and the relaxed Sunday afternoon crowd. His congenial repartee ironed the creases.

There was a thread. Every short piece was based to varying degrees on the concept of the musical “canon”, from the breezy 13th century Sumer is icumen in (complete with its choice images of animal flatulence) to more modern similarly-derived works such as Errollyn Wallen’s up tempo Rice and Beans - and Plantains Too, a spicy rhythmic number influenced by a favourite dish from her native Belize.

In every instance it was simple intimacy of delivery that sealed their success, often masking subtle complexities in the music. Take the three melodies that operate simultaneously as Ravenscroft’s Three Country Dances in One Round; or Bob Chilcott’s luxuriant version of Tallis’ Canon (a little of the dense harmonic detail appeared lost in the acoustics); or the ethereal whistling that effects a boiled-kettle ending to Abbie Betinis’ Be like the bird.

The witty play on words in Richard Crossland’s Liverpool Street Station was just as evocative as the the more serious Holst partsongs or Britten’s menacing version of Old Abram Brown. Oliver’s own arrangement of Pachelbel’s famous Canon provided the perfect valediction.

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