Kellie Consort Reviewed

After many months of planning, August 1st marked the debut of University Organist Tom Wilkinson’s new Kellie Consort. The new Consort is Scotland’s only pre-professional baroque ensemble and takes its name from the 6th Earl of Kellie, composer, Thomas Erskine (1732-81). With music of the Baroque era often being underplayed, the Consort endeavours to spread this unique form to a wider audience around the country. This process began in St Salvator’s Chapel before the group transferred to Glasgow’s St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral and Old St Paul’s Church, Edinburgh on subsequent nights.

The Consort features a select group of Scotland’s finest Baroque musicians, including current University of St Andrews students: Cornelia Topping, Helen Sanderson, Charles McGlone and Matthew Buchan as vocalists and Maebh Martin, Imogen Wilkinson and Jakub Gutkowski as instrumentalists. Performing alongside some of the country’s most talented, gathered from the top universities and conservatories.

The programme for the performance comprised of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Cantata: Christ lag in Todesbanden, Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Suite from Dardanus and George Frederick Handel’s Dixit Dominus.

Christ lag in Todesbanden, written by a young Bach, likely premiered on Easter Sunday in 1707. A highly complex piece, it demonstrates the composer’s incredible ability and was a perfect piece of music to likewise demonstrate the versatility of the performers. Featuring solo vocalists and soaring melodies, the opening to the concert was performed to an incredibly high standard.

The second piece of the programme saw the vocalists retire to the ante-chapel and the instrumentalists take over as they performed the Suite from Dardanus, an opera based on the mythological son of Jupiter who founded the settlement that would later be known as Troy. Each of the players performed to the highest standard, the sound of their beautifully unique instruments blending together and filling the chapel.

The conclusion piece of the performance was Handel’s setting of Psalm 110 which likely originated as part of a setting of the Carmelite Vespers for the Feast of the Madonna del Carmine in 1707. Although it is likely that, similar to other work’s of Handel, Dixit Dominus was originally intended for a coronation. The grandeur of the music telling of Christ’s second coming and judgment of the nations was a powerful conclusion to the concert.

Although the majority of students are currently absent from St Andrews, St Salvator’s Chapel received a fair turnout, with audience members visibly revelling in the musical delights on show. The Kellie Consort’s next performance will be in April 2016 when they join forces with the university’s flagship St Salvator’s Chapel Choir in performances of J. S. Bach’s Mass in B Minor. In addition, a summer tour is planned, taking in locations including the West of Scotland, the Highlands and the Islands. Applications for membership of the Kellie Consort will re-open later this year.

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