Edinburgh Fringe 2023
An interesting and well presented hour of music in the sublime setting and acoustics of St Mary’s Cathedral
A biblical torrent is falling over St Mary’s Cathedral, the silver lining of which is that it’s boosting the audience for this, the fifth of their month long series of lunchtime concerts which today featured an excellent and very different hour of music from the Scottish Clarinet Choir.
This is a relatively new ensemble that started out in 2019 just in time to get stopped in its tracks by Covid, but it’s bounced back with vigour under the directorship of John Lushing, a former Principal Clarinet with the RSNO. The SCC is made up of professional players, teachers, students as well as amateur players and draws musicians from all over Scotland to its monthly rehearsals in Dunblane.
Featuring around forty musicians, this lunchtime concert showcased works by Mozart, Elgar, Faure, Verdi and Johann Strauss II each arranged for an orchestra of clarinets, together with a suite of songs written for the group by SCC Bass Clarinet Bill Sweeney, Sean Orain Songs from South Uist.
The forty clarinets were skilfully deployed in roles that resembled (and at times sounded uncannily like) an equivalent string orchestra. The core sound was supplied by the Bb clarinet most people would recognise, basically playing the roles of first, second and third violins in an orchestra. They were augmented by alto clarinets playing the role of the viola with the bass clarinet assuming that of the cello and the contra-bass clarinet that of the orchestral double bass. And, at the top end of the range we had the Eb clarinets providing a piccolo like sound.
This was a well balanced programme of music that benefited from the superb Cathedral acoustics and showed the versatility of the instrument as well as showcasing the talents of a primarily youthful ensemble who played throughout with expression, a lightness of touch and, when the occasion demanded, vigour and enthusiasm.
This was a one-off performance but I’d have no hesitation in recommending you pay a visit as the programme (at least up to 12 August) looks diverse and interesting. And it’s free! You won’t get quite the ensemble I listened to as most concerts will feature either a solo instrumentalist or solo singer with accompanist but you will get an hour of good music in sublime surroundings with acoustics to die for.
And we concluded our concert with Piazzola’s Oblivion, appropriate really, considering the biblical torrent was still rattling off the Cathedral’s rafters. Some things in Scotland’s summer never change, it seems.