WITH a 200 strong chorus, backed by over 50 instrumentalists of Inverness Choral Sinfonia, the Voices United concert at Eden Court always had the makings of a memorable evening.
The singers and musicians must have been gratified by the packed Empire Theatre which greeted Inverness Choral Society’s first trans-Atlantic venture with its Canadian visitors from Chorus Niagara, ensuring they would be far from alone in fixing it in their memory.
However, before the adult singers launched into the drama of Beethoven and Orff, the evening eased gently to a start with the young voices of the Inverness branch of the National Youth Choir of Scotland.
Under the direction of Margaret Rae, their voices were nicely layered over Sheila Bruce’s darting piano strokes in a short set that included Somewhere Over The Rainbow and a selection of Texan folk songs — even if one of them did sound as though it had borrowed at least part of its tune from the Hebrides.
If the youngsters’ contribution was charming, then the massed voices of Inverness Choral Society and Chorus Niagara was hairs-on-the-back-of-the neck gripping as the sound rose in waves through the opening Kyrie of Beethoven’s Mass in C Major to the dramatic musical dam burst of the Gloria.
The choir made impressive work of the emotional peaks and troughs of Beethoven’s work, augmented by the instrumentalists of the Sinfonia and their guest soloists, among them the striking mezzo soprano Catriona Morison, making her only appearance of the evening.
While Beethoven’s work addressed the spiritual, with the Inverness performance at times reflecting that transcendental quality, Orff’s Carmina Burana deals with more earthy matters, for all that the lyrics which inspired it were discovered in a monastery.
The change in tone was reflected visually as the singers returned from the break with the women wearing brightly coloured scarves and the men ditching their dinner jackets to free themselves up for that energetic opening sequence, the well known O Fortuna.
It is a work that gave everyone a chance to shine, not just the singers of the two chorals.
The instrumental Tanz (Dance) gave the audience a chance to concentrate on the sinfonia’s musicianship, while each of the remaining guest vocalists — the Highlands’ own Gail Trolius serving as a fine representative of locally based talent, Brazilian tenor Raoni Hubner and veteran bass-baritone Donald Maxwell — each had a turn in the musical spotlight.
There were several times when the audience seemed to be on the brink of applause between each section, but it was only when Maxwell delivered a range defying solo, his solo going up and down like a walker on the Inca Trail, that the packed auditorium gave into temptation to show its well deserved appreciation.
Carmina Burana also allowed the youngsters of the NYCOs to make a comeback — though not actually on the overcrowded stage — and play their part in the mighty work.
It was a fine showcase for the talents of singers and musicians from both close to home and far off Canada, one that lived up to its sheer scale as an event worth seeking out.