Singers prepare for Christmas concerts

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Christmas would not be complete without the gentle musical contemplation of the Strathmore Singers.

The group has been welcoming Christmas through song since 2005 and will debut in Newtyle Parish Church on Thursday, December 18, at 7.30 p.m. A further concert will be given in the Kirriemuir Old Parish Church on Sunday, December 21, at the earlier time of 6 p.m.

This year’s programme of Advent and Christmas music brings together pieces from across the ages and across Europe.

Five musical sets are interspersed with congregational carols and readings and the opening set includes the ‘Ave Maria’ by Robert Parsons, thought to have influenced William Byrd.

Byrd, one of the great names of Tudor music, is represented both by his ‘Lullaby, My Sweet Little Baby’, which has a middle section referring to the slaughter of the Innocents in suitably anguished tones and also ‘Haec Dies’ a wonderfully exuberant piece for a feast day with contrasting contrapuntal and chordal sections and some unexpected cross rhythms.

Also due to be performed is ‘Dixit Maria’ by the German born Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612), which was written for the Feast of the Annunciation and, with its attractive and clear counterpoint, has a celebratory feel to it.

James MacMillan, one of the leading Scottish composers of the 21st century, is represented by his Antiphon for December 21, ‘O Radiant Dawn’. It is one of his Strathclyde Motets, several of which were written for the choir of his church in Glasgow. As well as being great fun to sing, the Antiphon for 21 December will actually be sung on December 21.

More recent carols include a setting of ‘Adam Lay Ybounden’ by Philip Ledger who was director of music at Kings’ College, Cambridge and the ‘Shepherd’s Carol’ by Bob Chilcott, another singer and composer with Kings connections.

‘In the Bleak Midwinter’ is perhaps one of the best loved of all carols and this setting by Harold Darke is always a favourite. William Walton’s ‘What Cheer’ is less well known but is a lively and rhythmic piece with a modern feel although the words are 16th century. The programme finishes with David Willcocks’ marvellous arrangement of ‘Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day’, which captures the joyous mood of the Christmas period.

Entry is by silver collection and the Kirriemuir concert will be followed by mulled wine and mince pies provided by the choir.