Stonehaven Town Hall was packed on February 4 when the Stonehaven Chorus presented one of their superbly imaginative and ever popular Scottish programmes.
The conducting honours were shared between Dr John Hearne and Ralph Jamieson, a past conductor of the choir, while Drew Tulloch was as ever on hand to provide colourful keyboard accompaniments where required.
A guaranteed crowd puller was the principal guest artist, Scots fiddle wizard Paul Anderson travelling hot foot to Stonehaven from flying the flag for North East music at Celtic Connections in Glasgow.
The audience responded uproariously to his definitive performances of shining Scott Skinner classics that set feet a tapping as well as to his own attractive compositions and of course his couthy introductions.
In accord with the other Burns items in the programme he even gave the audience the full Address to the Haggis although sadly there were no platefuls of that delicacy forthcoming.
Representing the more contemporary world of Scottish fiddle music, two talented eighteen year olds, Cameron Ross from Stonehaven and his keyboard accompanist Ally Forsyth from Westhill played up to date compositions that blended Scottish, Irish and transatlantic influences. Their music really swung.
Paul Anderson was not the only performer to give recitations. The special highlights here were Clark Wallace with To a Louse by Burns and Margaret Hearne with a marvellous comic creation by Les Wheeler, Life’s Little Ups an’ Doons, about a boy whose pants fell down every time he sneezed. His grannie found the solution and henceforward he only went out in his kilt.
John Hearne produced a marvellous setting of another Les Wheeler poem, This Aul’ Witch, sung with real vim and verve by the chorus. They also gave a fine rendition of a challenging setting by Dr Hearne of Wi’ a Hundred Pipers – lots of key changes and in the end, the pipers seeming to fade into the distance. The choir sang many other fine arrangements by talented Scottish arrangers like Ken Johnston and John Currie. Just as no Christmas concert is complete without a John Rutter arrangement surely no Scottish concert is complete without these fine arrangers.
One particularly amazing item, The Skating Minister, brought together a famous painting by Sir Henry Raeburn, words by Alexander McCall Smith and Edinburgh composer Tom Cunningham’s choral setting of The Skater’s Waltz by the Alsatian composer Emile Waldteufel.
The Stonehaven Chorus were in particularly fine voice. They seemed to be enjoying the concert every bit as much as the audience did especially in the choruses of the Willie Kemp classic, McGinty’s Meal and Ale, with the solo verses sung in real North East style by Oor Robbie (Robbie Middleton) complete with hairy string nicky-tams! John Hearne’s own humorous composition about a four by four driver who without snow tyres meets his comeuppance ended with the hee-haw of the emergency services played on the keyboard. The concert had opened with verses of an early Scots song Nou let us sing and the final verse suggesting that the singers were ready for some liquid refreshment provided a fitting conclusion to a very inclusive Scottish programme that spanned the centuries brilliantly.