Cupar Choral Society Christmas Concert Review 

December 2019 

Contributed by Liz Murray 


Cupar Choral Society’s seasonal concert on Saturday 7th December in St John’s Church was a splendid musical experience for the sizeable and appreciative audience. Musical Director Michael Segaud, supported by Matthew Beetschen on the organ, expertly led the choir through a well-chosen programme delivered with confidence and obvious enjoyment. 


The traditional opening carol, Once in Royal David’s City, was followed by Gabriel Faure’s popular Requiem which, with contrasting sections of quietness and power, moved from the Introit and Kyrie to the richness of the baritone solo performed ably by Eric Towns. The lyrical and moving Pie Jesu with its quiet plea for rest and peace, was sweetly sung by another Choral soloist, Helen Knowles-Venters.  


The choir’s attention to dynamics and tone provided dramatic light and shade during the Agnus Dei and Libera Me, again introduced by the baritone soloist. Finally, the ethereal In Paradisum, with its promise of heavenly peace, brought this beautiful and sensitive performance to its serene end. 


After a short interval, the music took on a more festive feel with a selection of well-known carols for audience participation interspersed with seasonal readings and choral pieces. The Sussex Carol, by turns bouncy and legato, contrasted splendidly with The Lamb, a poem by William Blake set to music by John Tavener. The latter was a haunting, atmospheric work of some complexity which was handled very effectively by the choir. A varied trio of songs was completed by What Sweeter Music appropriately arranged by John Rutter. 


Next, the more modern words of Olaf, the snowman from Frozen, took the audience to an unusual version of Frosty the Snowman by Michael Segaud in the style of John Rutter. Its smooth, flowing rhythm contrasted nicely with the jollity of We Wish You a Merry Christmas which brought the evening to a rousing conclusion. 


This was a very enjoyable concert by singers who displayed good musicality and a sensitive understanding of the different moods evoked by the music. Their performance was deservedly greeted by enthusiastic applause. 


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Cupar Choral Society (CCS) is all set to perform A German Requiem by Johannes Brahms on Saturday, 13 April, after a rousing final rehearsal on Monday.

According to brand-new research, German is now the most sought-after language by UK employers. What better time for CCS to be at one with the zeitgeist and singEin Deutsches Requiemin the original German, 150 years after the first performance in 1869?

Michelle Sheridan Grant and Peter Grant, soloists, and Matthew Beetschen and Anne Holland, accompanists, will join CCS and Michael Segaud, Musical Director, for their 2019 Spring Concert at St John’s Church, Cupar.

Yet again, Cupar Choral Society offers a stunning line-up of soloists and musicians. Highlights of Peter Grant’s career as an operatic bass baritone, concert performer and exponent of Scots song include roles with the Royal Opera House and Scottish Opera and performing for 10,000 at the Scottish Proms Concert at Glamis Castle. Soprano Michelle Sheridan Grant’s international career takes in English National Opera, radio recitals and roles in Bermuda and the USA. Matthew Beetschen is now organist / choirmaster at Dunfermline Abbey after many years at Dunblane Cathedral. Anne Holland teaches piano at Strathallan School.

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From the opening ethereal notes of the first part of Karl Jenkins’ Adiemus, as well as the well-controlled crescendos and joyous percussive moments, the substantial audience at Cupar Choral’s Annual Concert on 21stApril knew they were going to be assured of an excellent evening of music.

After a warm welcome to St. John’s Church by the Reverend Ian Weatherspoon, conductor Michael Segaud introduced the second piece in the programme, five Spirituals arranged by John Rutter from his song cycle ‘Feel the Spirit’.    

Under Michael’s excellent direction the choir’s mellow tone, clear diction and some lovely instrumental moments captured the genre of the songs.   The finger clicking in ‘Joshua beat the Battle’, the thoughtful atmosphere and exquisite harmonies of ‘Steal Away’, the beautiful beautiful opening piano passage followed by a most sensitive solo flute, the sonorous chordal sounds in ‘Deep River’ and the smiles and sharp clarity of ‘When the Saints’ right to the exuberant ‘Yeah’ at the end, all underlined that the conductor, choir and instrumentalists were at one in the performance. 

The final piece again by Karl Jenkins ‘The Armed Man’, saw the choir joined by a larger group of instrumentalists, the excellent Cupar Consort, and four young soloists with great potential, Leah DuncanKarim from Dunfermline, Isobel Haynes from Cupar, Mathew Cobain from Kirkcaldy and Brandon Low from Markinch.

This anti-war piece dedicated to the victims of Kosovo, uses the Catholic Mass as a framework alongside texts secular and religious including the haunting Adhaan, the Muslim call to Prayer and words from Kipling, Tennyson and Sankichi Toge, a Hiroshima survivor who sadly died later of leukaemia.

Again the response of choir, young soloists and instrumentalists to the direction of Michael Segaud engaged the audience in the journey from the insistent percussive and piccolo clarity of ‘L’Homme Arme’, through the poignant piano solo of Torches, the beautiful descending scale of the ‘Angus Dei’, the heart rending cello solo and contrasting triumphant declaration of the ‘Benedictus’, right to the end with the uplifting and passionate rendition of ‘Better is Peace than always War’.    The Armed Man does indeed echo so much of the present World’s unease.

This was a terrific evening of music from a choir who so obviously love to sing and are justly proud of Cupar Choral under the leadership of Michael Segaud.

Rehearsals begin on Monday 10thSeptember 7.30pm  for the next concert, Handel's Messiah, on Saturday 8thDecember in St. John’s, something to look forward to.

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Popular and Profound - Cupar Choral Society Spring Concert

Cupar Choral Society’s Spring Concert brings together Sir Karl Jenkins’ hugely-popular Adiemus and The Armed Man and a selection from Feel the Spirit, John Rutter’s jazz-influenced setting of familiar American spirituals. 

First performed in 2000, The Armed Man is subtitled A Mass for Peace and is dedicated to victims of the Kosovo crisis. With over 2000 performances to date, the work has a universal appeal, with its powerful evocation of the terrible consequences of war and its enduring message of peace and tolerance – a message that is sadly relevant today.

Choristers will be joined by a virtuoso orchestra, The Cupar Consort, which includes well-known Fife musicians and musicians from much further afield. 

The Society is delighted to have the opportunity to showcase the remarkable talents of our four young soloists: Leah Karrim (soprano), Isabel Haynes (contralto), Matthew Cobain (tenor) and Brandon Low (baritone). 

Michael Segaud, the Society’s Musical Director, said: 

Watch out for these four in future! They all deserve to go far, and they are fantastic ambassadors for music-making in Fife”.

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Cupar Choral Christmas Concert - Review

On Saturday December 9th, Cupar Choral Society gave its first concert under the able baton of Michael Segaud, following the death of the much-liked Bruce Fraser. The opening piece was a lively, well-rendered Welcome Yule by Hubert Parry and that set the standard for the evening. Britten's St Nicholas Cantata, a tricky piece to perform, opened with Michael Segaud on the violin, playing beautifully, while the choir sang unconducted but with confidence. The second scene was more dissonant, but the choir sang well, the words clear. The tenor soloist, David Horton, added his fine voice to the story, depicting the adult Saint Nicholas. The storm scene created an exciting sound picture with the men creating the drama with verve, joined by the women who added to the energy of this section. Although the tenors and basses were in rather short supply they sang well together and could rise to all the dynamics from sweet piano to fortissimo. Young Ben Clark's sweet treble solo, sung with clear confidence, was excellent and when joined by local trebles Andrew Scott and Tom Anderson their good sense of timing and pitch was a thrilling sound, marred only a little by a slightly ragged ending by the choir. The last few scenes were smoothly performed and the whole colourful canvas was most satisfying to listen to.  The clear diction from the choir, enabling the story to be followed, and its careful regard for the dynamics (plenty of eye contact ensured this) demanded by the conductor meant they provided a quality performance full of colour.  The Poulenc Christmas Motets are even more demanding to sing, and perhaps it was not surprising that the first, O Magnum Mysterium, risky to try unaccompanied, had to be rescued by tactful support from Robin Bell on the organ as the pitch faltered with all the difficult harmonies, but the choir recovered and the other motets produced a lovely sound.  The careful eye kept on the conductor meant that short phrases ended crisply, and in the last two pieces the sound was bright and satisfying. The carols were superbly well sung, particularly "Jesus Christ the Apple Tree", with perfect soft singing where all voices blended beautifully.  The Eden Handbells with their sweet, gentle sound and varied Christmas music provided a good foil to the singing and gave choir members time to rest their voices in what was a “long sing”. It was most enjoyable and different.  The audience enjoyed the community carol-singing, with treble Ben and the soprano descants adding to the rich sound. And perhaps mention should be made of the seamless changeover when Robin Bell, who had been playing an intricate piece on the piano, needed time to reach the organ for the next scene: Kate Doig took over so well that not a note was missed. It is rumoured that they are considering a stage double act. Seriously, the choir rose to the demands of the challenging music, ably supported by Robin Bell's excellent playing on organ and piano. Michael Segaud not only ensured a nicely varied programme, but with his good control of the singers gave us all a fine concert. It bodes well for the future.

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