Bearsden Choir

St. John’s Renfield Church, Glasgow

Keith Bruce

four stars

NOT only is choral director Andrew Nunn bringing about a clear incremental improvement in the standard of the community choir from Glasgow’s affluent northern suburb, he is also insuring, through his other activities, that it is keeping the very best of company.

With the excellent Christopher Nickol at the organ, the soloists for this Christmas Concert were all undergraduate students at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and — just as significantly — trained by the National Youth Choir of Scotland, all three being in the choir that sang Berlioz for conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner at New York’s Carnegie Hall last year.

In fact this music was not especially Christmassy, but in Vivaldi’s Gloria and the Faure Requiem the choir chose to tackle two of the shorter major works of the established choral canon on which younger voices can often teach the adults a thing or two. Bearsden Choir emerged from that challenge with great credit. This West End church is a spacious, vaulted building which still proved a tight squeeze for both audience and chorus, but from the opening bars of the Vivaldi it was clear the acoustic suited the choir, and that Nunn had the sections of it under careful dynamic control.

The 18 tenors must take particular credit. By far, as usual, the smallest section, they have a very exposed role in both works, especially at the start of the second movement in the Gloria, and pretty much throughout the Requiem. But the women of the chorus also deserve praise for their well-modulated performance in achieving the balance their conductor sought. Perhaps the Faure could have begun a little more quietly, but the choral diction of the church Latin was generally on a par with that of the youngsters, which is praise indeed.

Those soloists are all indeed “ones to watch”, as Nunn has said. Soprano Karla Grant and mezzo Rebecca Pennykidd combined beautifully in the Vivaldi, and the former had a beautiful tone for the party piece that is the Pie Jesu in the Faure, while baritone Daniel Barrett was poised and precise in the Libera Me.