IONA RAE: Soprano



Wednesday 19th August, 2020

Dr Roger B. Williams, organist and musical director for St. Machar’s Cathedral introduced this, the fifth online concert in the current series of six. It was the third to be performed on site in the Cathedral itself. It seems that these concerts just get better and better. Today’s performance featured a sensational young soprano Iona Rae. She is currently a choral scholar at the Cathedral. Iona was accompanied by Dr Tim Tricker on piano. Iona has recently graduated from Aberdeen University with First Class Honours in music. Tim Tricker, as well as being a talented and much sought after accompanist, is also a lecturer in English at the University, one of these fortunate people who is good at everything he does.

Today’s programme featured four works for voice and piano, two by Herbert Howells, one by Mozart and one by a composer whom I had never heard of until today. Francesco Cilea (1866 – 1950) was an Italian composer of operas belonging to what is called the ‘Giovane scuola’ a group of opera composers who followed on from Verdi. One of his ‘best known works’ is ‘Adriana Lecouvreur’ and it was with ‘Adriana’s Aria’ from this very opera that Iona had chosen to conclude her recital today.

Back to the beginning however. The duo’s first piece was an attractive setting of a carol by Herbert Howells, ‘Come Sing and Dance’. Iona’s soprano voice has a delightful pure clear almost crystalline quality, full of the freshness of youth. She was supported by Tim Tricker’s flowing arpeggiated piano playing. Together, they absolutely sparkled in this first piece.

Their second piece was the ‘Laudamus Te’ from Mozart’s ‘Mass in c minor’ K427. It is a marvellous paean of praise, opening with a bright piano introduction before Iona came in with her luminous soprano which as the piece progressed into Mozart’s flutteringly ornate voice part made me think of joyous birdsong. There were precision leaps in the vocal part which were absolutely spot-on.

Back to Herbert Howells, we were to hear his setting of a poem by Walter de la Mare, ‘King David’.

‘King David was a sorrowful man:

No cause for his sorrow had he;

And he called for the music of a hundred harps,

To ease his melancholy.’

These harps failed to do the trick, but King David wandered into his garden where he heard a nightingale singing:

‘But the bird in no wise heeded

And the King in the cool of the moon

Hearkened to the nightingale’s sorrowfulness,

Till all his own was gone.’

The resonant piano chords and low vocal setting depict the sorrow, then the piano creates the idea of the hundred harps and finally, the singing of the nightingale. Together, Tim and Iona painted  marvellous full colour pictures with their music!

The final piece was that aria from the opera ‘Adriana Lecouvreur’ by Francesco Cilea. ‘Lo son l’umile ancella’  (I am the humble handmaid). It too was a fully coloured piece with a strong melodic content. It was great to discover that there is still lots of music that I, in my mid seventies, have still to discover.

I look forward to the final concert in the series next week featuring tenor David Walsh with Dr Jeremy Coleman as piano accompanist. I have heard both many times and I can say that they are both absolutely brilliant, so be sure to tune in next Wednesday, although they will still be available to see and hear on YouTube or Facebook for a while afterwards.