In his programme notes for Bach's great oratorio, the St. John Passion, Kevin Duggan, the Rosenethe Singers' new conductor, discusses the operatic aspect of the work, but even that failed to prepare us for the dramatic performance, which he directed on Sunday, 27th March, in Dunblane Cathedral.
From the opening chorus with its heartfelt cry of "Herr" the choir sang confidently and with a wide range of dynamics and technical control throughout the performance, and this is achieved only by hard work and dedication. Their tone was consistently bright and fresh and with a youthful quality. Words were clear and well projected and there were some excellent soloists from the choir.
Drama is the key word here as this work vividly tells the story of betrayal and suffering, anger, hope and resignation, and Kevin Duggan's soloists sang with understanding and strength.
Soprano, Susan Hamilton, used her bright silvery voice effortlessly to portray joy and sadness, blending beautifully with the orchestra. Cheryl Forbes, Alto, has a warm, vibrant voice which was perfectly suited to this work, and she brought a feeling of real tragedy to her final aria "Es ist vollbracht". Stewart Kempster was completely convincing as a dignified and noble Christus, using his rich sonorous voice with colour and intensity. Simon Oberst, Bass as Pilatus, also sang his arias with emotion and a strong sense of style. Andrew Dickinson, Evangelist, is no stranger to Dunblane audiences and he always impresses, but, in this performance, he was outstanding vocally and dramatically. His portrayal ranged from sadness to anger and grief, bringing every word of the text to life and left us in no doubt that he is one of the finest Evangelists in the country.
The Scottish Bach Players, led by Angus Ramsay, produced lovely tone, supported the singers beautifully and contributed enormously to the performance.
Kevin Duggan directed his forces with huge energy, commitment and a deep understanding of the work, which drew the very best from all the performers.
This was an evening of high quality music-making and we look forward to the next concert by the Rosenethe Singers on November 12th, in Dunblane Cathedral.