The vaccine roll-out in the UK may be the most important work the National Health Service is doing at the moment, but regular encounters with Ayr Choral Union should also be available on prescription.
Following the same model as the online Messiah last October, but with the bonus of choir director Andrew McTaggart joining the same quartet of soloists – soprano Catriona Hewitson, mezzo Penelope Cousland, tenor Ted Black and baritone Colin Murray – this was a greatest hits package from the Ayr chorus, hosted on Zoom. It is not a platform suited to audio collaboration, so hearing the choir sing together is not an option, but McTaggart and the 150 others who joined him do not allow that to stand in their way. The community of singers were all muted, but they could be seen lustily joining in with the young professionals on a programme that began with Handel’s Coronation Anthem Zadok the Priest, and included selections from Bach’s St John Passion, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, the Requiems of Brahms, Mozart and Faure, and contemporary work by Ola Gjeilo, Morten Lauridsen and the choir’s patron Sir James MacMillan.
Sir James had actually been part of the coaching sessions, guiding the choir through the Lux Aeterna from his Strathclyde Motets at one of their online meetings prior to this concert. Others were sectionals, with the soloists joining McTaggart to work on the repertoire. When they are permitted to sing together again, Ayr Choral Union will be nearer match-fit than many choirs.
The accompaniment for this concert was a string quartet (Katrina Lee, Kirstin Drew, Aaron McGregor and Alice Allen) filmed in Glasgow Cathedral with Andrew Forbes on keyboards. He was also responsible for editing the contributions of the singers and players together in what was a very slick split-screen operation. There was some lovely ensemble work from the quartet – notably on the Mozart Lacrymosa and Gjeilo’s Northern Lights – and McTaggart sometimes popped up in duplicate, conducting and singing, including a fine solo Libera Me from the Faure Requiem.
Not only has Ayr Choral continued to work through the pandemic, it has also been raising money for charity, regardless of the lack of ticket money for the coffers. In her upbeat introduction to the concert, choir president Kate Wilson may not have used the words “deficit be damned” but the implication was there.
So if your choir needs a kick-start after Covid, get in touch and see if they’ll share their fine film for a few quid. Just say VoxCarnyx sent you.