Concert in the Danish Church
24 June 2017
There are many reasons, of course, why a choir might induce weeping among its audience, not all of them positive. But when one member of the large audience at our concert at the Danish Church on June the 24th told us afterwards, ‘I cried’, we are confident that the sentiment was entirely complimentary.
Our programme began with Finzi’s Haste On, my joys, one of his beautiful settings of Roberts Bridges’ poems, followed by Rubbra’s woefully under-performed The Givers, composed to mark the 85th birthday of Vaughan Williams. Staying firmly in England, we then sang Parry’s What Voice of Gladness, another Robert Bridges setting.
But no concert in a Danish church would be complete without some Danish music, and so our next number was Lange-Müller’s Madonna over Bølgerne. It had taken us a while to get our tongues around the intricacies (and downright illogicalness) of Danish pronunciation, but either we made a very good attempt or our audience was far too polite to tell us otherwise.
We stayed with Danish for Grieg’s gorgeous Våren, for which we were joined by the soprano soloist Marianne Cotterill, a long-time collaborator with the Ionian Singers and a member of the ROH chorus. As the concert was only a couple of days away from midsummer it was perhaps slightly incongruous to be singing a song about spring, but the music was so lovely that it hardly seemed to matter.
Turning to Sweden, we then sang an arrangement of the folksong Värmeland, by our very own Timothy Salter. Once again Marianne sung the solo line beautifully. Following this were two of Tim’s English folksong arrangements, the first, The Bold Fisherman, about a fair maiden who suddenly changes her tune about marrying the ‘fisherman’ she has just met upon discovering that he is, in fact, rolling in money. We then went cuckoo, literally, with The Cuckoo is a Pretty Bird, after which we crossed back to Scandinavia for Alfvén’s Aftonen.
As we’d already sung about spring, we stayed with the season for Byrd’s This Sweet and Merry Month of May, thus proving that we are no respecter of calendars. Next came Greaves’ lovely madrigal Come Away, Sweet Love, with all its many ‘fa la la’s (at one point an entire page of them. Greaves possibly lacked imagination when it came to lyrics).
We finished with two more of Tim’s folksong arrangements, this time from Denmark: Jeg gik mig i lunden, and En yndig og frydefuld sommertid, with Marianne singing the beautiful solo lines on top.
Not that the evening ended there. The concert took place on Sankthansaften (St John’s Eve), a day in the Danish calendar that has as much to do with pagan celebrations as with religious observance. So afterwards we all filed out of the church to take part in the Danish garden party, with drizzle helpfully provided by the British climate. We all had great fun sitting round campfires and trying our hands at making Danish snobrød, much more delicious than its description – bread on a stick – would suggest. Those who stayed until the end witnessed the ceremonial burning of a witch (something that we should perhaps introduce at more of our concerts in the future).
We are extremely grateful to all those who came along to hear us, and, of course, to the wonderful Marianne Cotterill. ‘I was so delighted by the sound of the choir’, one audience member told us afterwards. ‘Tak for jeres dejlige koncert!’ Which, if our knowledge of Danish is correct, means that they rather liked us.
28 August 2017
The end of an Ionian year with many high moments, and a scary one! The scary one first was a concert venue where I was almost in complete darkness and couldn’t see the music. A possible contender for the high spot was our concert in the Danish Church. A full house (we didn’t print enough tickets or programmes!) and all the sweat and tears that went into learning the Danish & Swedish paid off as could be seen in the smiles of the audience. I don’t know what the words mean but I got great satisfaction from saying ‘skummende’ and ‘fjeldblokken’ – words that I feel could be well used in an altercation of road rage.
But, undoubtedly the highest spot for me was the very first rehearsal of the year when we were presented with a pile of music for the next concert and beyond. The conductor usually asks who is sight reading the piece and about 80% raise their hands. What happens next is pure magic. There is instant music, often note perfect. Wow there are some good sight- readers.