NESCGS 1st Concert - June 2013

NESCGS 1st Concert - June 2013

Reviews: I would like to say how excited and moved I was by Saturday's concert. I'll confess to being quite choked up at the quality and dedication every one of you showed on the day and in the months preceding. It was a huge leap in the dark for many of us, it being the first time that some of you have performed in any capacity in public. The progress of individuals and groups over this season, and even from the inception of the society, is truly remarkable and worth of praise. It wasn't long ago that some couldn't coax out a tune on a Members' Night. It was of course a great sadness that Conall wasn't there to received the accolades he deserves for herding us to a level of proficiency that few could have anticipated, even a couple of months ago. Peter Stewart has kindly put pen to paper on the event which you can read below. Thank you Peter, for stepping into the breach at such short notice and to such a successful outcome. In closing can I please thank each of you for your commitment, musicality, dedication, tenacity, patience, hard work and trust. It was a very proud moment for me to stand up and represent you to the audience.

Thanks again Peter Stock NESCGS Chairman

A view from the co-pilots seat.

Today I had the delightful honour of conducting the guitar orchestra in their first public performance. It was a very pleasant surprise to be asked at short notice to do this but tinged with a little sadness as the captain of the proceedings should have been Conall McKay. Conall had been rehearsing the group for many a month and it would of course have been the natural outcome for him to hear the fruits of his labours - unfortunately his wife had taken ill and Conall had no choice but to hand over the baton on the day of the concert.

Before the orchestra performed we were treated to the members of the society in performance, and if I may, I'd like to write a few words describing the performance.

Peter Stock (society chairman) opened proceedings with a short and amusing welcome to a good sized audience for a summer's afternoon! He then joined Les Stewart, John Harle and Jim Campbell to make up the society's quartet Capo Demented who performed Four Dances by the late Renaissance composer, organist, and music theorist Michael Praetorius (1571-1621). The ensemble created a full and warm sound filing the hall with music that masks its complexity by its lightness of sound. The four eased their way to the final movement displaying their enjoyment and familiarity in playing together; an impressive opening to the afternoon.

John Harle remained on the platform to introduce the first of the solo works to be heard today. La Lola a sad and traditional Spanish song arranged by Eythor Thorlaksson was graceful and lyrically delivered with a sensitive use of rubato and phrasing; John sharing with us the colourful tones of his beloved Christopher Dean guitar.

Peter Stock returned to perform a duo with Jackie Lawrie. Their choice was one of Ferdinando Carulli's Neapolitan chamber pieces; this Allegretto had both performers securing the classical restraint of this work whilst being aware not to be too restrictive - pleasing tonality, graceful rhythm and a hint at the romantic era yet to dawn.

Jackie remained in place and enchanted us with a beautiful delivery of Irina Kircher's Twilight - rich tone and ease of phasing in abundance.

Gary Campbell was next to take to the stage with a number of works ranging in style from Spanish to Elizabethan, all played with confidence, musicality and a notable degree of style. The highlight of his performance was Waltzing Matilda. Here Gary took time to let the well know melody hang in the air but all the while adding his personality to the piece - never over stated but always engaging.

The well established duo Cantilena by Andrew Shiels was performed by Alison Hamel and Bob Naylor. The couple successfully gave the work its song like character with pleasing phrases displaying throughout a well judged balance between melody and accompaniment.

The Capo Demented quartet performed again with the baroque composer Georg Philipp Telemann's Concerto in D major. This challenging work originally for four violins was presented with the same flare as their opening Praetorius dances.

Final to close the solo and small ensemble part of the programme Gary Campbell and I performed six works by the German guitarist/composer Michael Langer. These short pieces were all in contemporary in style, blues, pop, ragtime and west coast American. Gary played these duos with complete assurance whilst still having the time to send me commands to behave myself and stop getting carried away. Great fun!

The chamber group, under my baton, but brimming with Conall's rehearsal directions, got off to a pleasing start with a fine arrangement of Let it Be follow by another Lennon and McCartney classic - Lady Madonna. The group played with a controlled unity and balance of voicing before surging into a uptempo drive deftly aided by Jim Campbell's strident bass - played with a special five pence piece (you had to be there!). Three Chorales by Johann Sebastian Bach provided the baroque section of the programme and the ensemble performed these demanding musical challenges with great style.

Excellent programming on Conall's part as the mood for the audience was now set for most effective work of the day, Eileans a Cheo (Island of Mist) written by our absent conductor. Conall's work shifts through several episodes describing the island whilst a strong Celtic flavour in the harmonies acts as the core of the piece. The opening clarsach effect between the different guitar sections supports a simple but enchanting theme which builds into a strong melody - full of yearning and longing. As the work expands the sudden break in tempo leading us into five beats per bar drives the work on - suggestive of bleak surroundings and rough terrain. This momentum gives way to that can only be described as melancholic - a beautiful theme gently and moodily taken along by effective use of ostinato; the harmony crafted to create tension that is not resolved until the final chord. A most rewarding work for any ensemble to undertake.

When I enquired if there would be another concert in the future I was told - 'that will be a collective decision' - with a group as like minded, passionate and as together as this, it would be a great shame not to do so!

Peter Stewart

Note of Appreciation

I would like to congratulate the members of the NESCGS on the occasion of their first public concert on Saturday 29th June 2013 at Queens Cross Church. Despite not being able to attend the concert (for family reasons) I have been reliably informed that it was a great success and a credit to all. I would like to especially thank the well know and respected guitarist, composer and teacher Peter Stewart for his remarkably generous gesture in stepping in to the role of conductor at such short notice and at considerable inconvenience to himself. While I was extremely disappointed to have missed our first performance (and the first public performance of my piece, Eilean a Cheo) I was greatly relieved and reassured when Peter agreed to conduct at this concert. He effectively saved the day for the orchestra. I enjoyed the challenge of directing the guitar orchestra at rehearsals and I hope members feel they benefited from the experience of ensemble playing. I do believe that there has been an improvement in general musicianship all round. As a member and musical director I am proud of my association with the society and I particularly admire the enthusiasm and hard work of members leading up to the concert. I hope our society & orchestra continue to grow and contribute to musical life of the North East of Scotland. A big thank you too to the committee for arranging the event, hire of the hall etc.

Conall McKay Musical Director NESCGS

Photographs courtesy of Katie Webster