CATHEDRAL CHURCH of St MACHAR OLD ABERDEEN
THE FIRST OF FOUR LIVE CONCERTS IN THE CATHEDRAL
TRIBUTE TO SIR WALTER SCOTT FOLLOWING THE 250TH ANNIVERSARY OF HIS BIRTH
ON AUGUST 15TH 1771
NEIL BIRSE: Piano
TOM WILLIAMS: Guitar
KATIE MACKIE: Soprano and Reader
PROFESSOR DAVID HEWITT with
FIONA KENNEDY, ALISON LUMSDEN, SHONA POTTS BUXTON
This first in a series of four concerts was introduced and organised by Dr Roger B. Williams, organist and Director of Music at the Cathedral. Having known Roger as a concert organiser for many years, I never cease to be amazed at the breadth of his musical reach. Like many people, I did not connect the name of Sir Walter Scott with music. In the programme note, David Hewitt is quoted as saying, ‘Scott was not musical, he could not read music and he could not sing’. However Scott’s contribution to music, however indirect, is legendary. There are over 90 operas based on his works and he was an important collector and distributor of folksongs, in the texts at least.
How many people are aware that it was Scott who composed the original English words of Ave Maria, known as ‘Ellen’s Third Song’ from ‘The Lady of the lake’. It was translated into German by Philipp Adam Storck (1780-
It was Schubert’s German setting of Ave Maria sung by Katie Mackie that opened this evening’s performance. Katie’s voice was young, fresh and pure and she was accompanied with delicacy by Neil Birse on the piano.
The first reader to perform was Fiona Kennedy. She also closed the performance with highly pictorial words from ‘The Lady of the Lake’. She did not sing today, and yet I thought her beautifully clear and well paced reading had a powerful musical impact.
David Hewitt and Shona Buxton brought out the dramatic side of Scott’s writing in their extract from ‘The Antiquary’ with reference to the Battle of Harlaw which took place just north of Inverurie.
David Hewitt gave a powerful reading from Guy Mannering followed by an extract from ‘The Heart of Mid-
The contrast between the voices of the readers was meaningful. The texts were not really connected in the originals but taken together in this evening’s concert they were almost symphonic in their impact. This performance weaving together both the readings and the music would make a marvellous radio programme.
The second musical item brought together pianist Neil Birse and guitarist Tom Williams in a jazz inspired piece based on a theme constructed from the letters of the name Walter Scott. Neil had the melody line with a delicate undercurrent of guitar played nicely by Tom.
Their accompaniments for Katie Mackie who both read and sang the poetry of Scott were delicately well judged. In ‘Breathes there the man’ from the ‘Lay of the Last Minstrel’ she read most of the text before blossoming into song with ‘Lucy Ashton’s Song’. ‘Wow!’ I thought, ‘I wonder who composed that splendid melody’. I discovered that it was by Katie herself. Later in ‘By lone St Mary’s silent lake’ from ‘Marmion’ Katie first read the text then sang through it with marvellous attention to the rhythm of the text.
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