Two concerts, two choirs and a Gladstone’s Bag full of delights

East Lothian was entertained this autumn with two fundraising concert supporting the Rotary Clubs of Dunbar and North Berwick in their local, national and international work.

Belhaven Church, Dunbar was the first venue where Dunbar Choral, now in their 70th year of performing, were joined by Gladstone’s Bag.  The programme featured medleys from  The Musical World of Disney, Oklahoma and selections from  Andrew Lloyd Webber in Concert and The Beatles. The following week at St Andrews Blackadder in North Berwick, Dunbar Choral were joined by their friends, North Berwick Sings led by Karen Dietz.

From the moment the first note of the piano sounded (David Townhill) together with percussive beat (Ian Munro) the evening was a breathtaking ride.  The audience were swept up and invited on board with a big Broadway style rendition of Be our guest which accelerated into Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious with sure-footed speed and dazzling diction.  Conductor, Vaughan Townhill, energetically directed and encouraged the choir whilst skilfully maintaining pace and dynamics throughout , from the brisk march of Mickey Mouse Club and the anthemic calling to arms of Seize the day to the delicate strains of nursery rhyme/folk tune Lavender’s Blue. There was a particularly rousing rendition by tenors and basses of A whale of a tale which surpassed the 1949 version sung by Kirk Douglas.  As a complete contrast, floating over a gentle accompaniment from full choir, soprano soloist, Diane Kerr added an extra magical sparkle to inspirational songs A dream is a wish your heart makes and Colours of the Wind. Closing their first set with an energy packed Zip-a-dee-do-dah the audience had but a moment to catch their breath before the Belhaven audience were transported by Gladstone’s Bag, an ensemble specialising in live music for silent film.

The Bag contains Lawrence Dunne (violin), Kate Wake (flute), Gilmour McLeod (piano) and Vaughan Townhill who slipped seamlessly from baton to clarinet. The audience swayed to the strains of Blue Danube and wondered at the nimble fingers of the violinist in Chinese Galop. Well known tunes were recognised in Covent Garden followed by a moving rendition of Rosamunde and the crowd pleasing Danse des mirlitons which was played with marvellous dexterity by the flute and clarinet. There was much foot tapping and even a little singing from the audience as they conjured up images of fruit and nut chocolate.

For those at the North Berwick venue North Berwick Sings opened their set with a well executed California Dreaming showcasing the group’s harmonic skills followed by Catch a falling star;  a wonderfully smooth performance in the round.  Throughout their performance, conductor, Karen Dietz maintained an aura of complete calm sending out ripples of direction which the group digested and returned as harmonious musical waves. The all female choir gave a haunting quality to Eriskay Love Lilt but saved the best until last with Love call me home ,   a melodious and life affirming song from Peggy Seeger..

Dunbar Choral changed pace again moving from stage and screen to The Beatles.  Both Help and A Hard Day’s Night  were performed with great energy and enthusiasm in direct contrast to a beautifully smooth prayerlike Let it be and one of the evening’s highlights, the soulful Blackbird , a near perfect performance.  With no time for flagging, the choir plunged back into the world of the musical with mischevious renditions of numbers  from Oklahoma  and songs from the many shows of Andrew Lloyd Webber :   including a very sweet performance of Don’t cry for me Argentina, an evangelical Light at the end of the tunnel and a warm delivery of Love changes everything. The last song was The Phantom of the opera  where the audience were undoubtedly sent home on a high note.


G Wiley