• Regarding Concert Feedback
  • Just a wee note to say how delighted we were to be a part of your special celebrations – you were all amazing !!
    Congratulations to you all, and look forward the possibility of working together in the future.
    Jay Allen
    Orchestra and Concerts Director
    The Orchestra of Scottish Opera

    - Jay Allen, Orchestra and Concerts Director, SO

    A huge thank you again for the invite to the concert. I thoroughly enjoyed it – what a sound from combined forces of HOC, Rosenethe Singers, soloists and the Orchestra of Scottish Opera!”
    Sarah Lockhart
    Creative Learning Officer, Creative Scotland
    - Sarah Lockhart

    Just a quick note to say what a brilliant evening I had on Sunday. Congratulations on such an impressive concert, it was really spectacular. A very big thanks and I hope you're having a well earned rest this week!
    - Alison Reeves, Making Music

    Last night the audience in the city halls witnessed a wonderful occasion the celebration of a choir that has prided itself in 60 years of music making of the highest level. The Helensburgh Oratorio Choir printed a programme that made amazing reading. The impact they have made on the music scene in Scotland is considerable. Looking at the lists of singers they have hired as soloists over these 60 years is a who's who of amazing voices.
    There are many choirs across the land who can boast similar musical credentials and we must continue to support everything they do. These grassroots music organisations and societies is where musical journeys can start. A good place to thank Rosnethe Singers who joined the HOC on stage and added greatly to the over all sound. In the Helensburgh choir it was so heartening to see so many young faces in the ranks of singers. So encouraging to see.
    As for the concert. The standard of singing reached another level thanks to the fabulous support of the orchestra of Scottish Opera. Thank you for playing for this 60th anniversary concert.
    As for the music. There was everything for people to experience and enjoy last night. New music by Aileen Sweeney given a terrific platform and worked amazingly well. Derek Clark's tryptic of well known folk songs set us all up perfectly for what was to come after the interval Vaughan Williams' Sea Symphony. It's not often you get a chance to hear it live and it was such a powerful experience. The choir sounded amazing. The full force of the sea captured perfectly in the music. Well done too to our two soloists David Stout and Lee Bisset who rode the musical swell of the orchestra perfectly. Special praise to the choirs musical director Susanna Wapshott for a magnificent concert. Her preparation of the choir for the night meticulously done. Bravo tutti
    - Jamie MacDougall

    Any performance of ‘Handel's ‘Messiah' ought to be a special occasion for performers and audience alike, but there were several reasons why Helensburgh Oratorio Choir's performance in the Parish Church last Sunday had that extra something which made it an occasion to be remembered by all who made up the capacity audience in the Parish Church. The Choir were celebrating their 60th anniversary, and it was good to hear them in robust form, relishing the many challenges of the music and producing a well-balanced sound throughout the evening as well as considerable power when required. An excellent team of soloists, led by the choir's patron, Jamie MacDougall, whose stylish singing of the opening sequence set the bar high for the other soloists, ensured that all the arias were in safe hands. Soprano Barbara Cole-Walton, making a welcome return to Helensburgh, gave us an especially impressive ‘Rejoice, greatly', every last semiquaver effortlessly in place, while Jane Monari provided darker contrast in her mezzo contributions, her ‘refiner's fire' aria being a particular highlight. The line-up was completed by the young Scottish Baritone Jonathan Forbes Kennedy, a recent alumnus of the Royal Conservatoire, whose intelligent singing was another high point of the evening. In partnership with the silver-toned trumpet playing of Simon Bird, he made sure that ‘The Trumpet shall sound' made a fitting climax to the solo contributions. The orchestra, a mixture of professional players from Scottish Opera and students from the RCS, led by Katie Hull, played Handel's music with a sure sense of style, adding greatly to the success of the performance while never overwhelming the soloists or the choir.
    In addition to the quality of the music-making, however, the evening was made extra special by being a tribute to Walter Blair, the choir's conductor for more than a third of its entire existence, whose passing earlier this year left such a gap in Scotland's musical life. He would surely have been delighted with the performance, directed by the choir's current conductor, Susannah Wapshott. Her clear, unfussy conducting and innate musicianship underpinned the evening, inspiring all involved to give of their best to serve Handel's music and also to make a fitting tribute to Walter. Under her leadership, Helensburgh Oratorio Choir continues to go from strength to strength. As we wish it ‘Happy 60th Anniversary', may it continue to be part of the musical life of the town for at least another 60 years!
    - Derek Clark


    Sometimes, the various human elements that go to make up a concert , soloists, choir, orchestra, conductor, and even the audience – all gel together to produce something that is more than the sum of its parts. Such an occasion was Helensburgh Oratorio Choir's performance of Haydn's ‘The Creation', given last Sunday evening in the Parish Church. Here was a performance where the music had been thought about, prepared well, and then was confidently delivered to the large audience in a manner that caught to perfection not only the majesty but also the innocent joy which Haydn found in the text. There aren't many oratorios which provoke a smile, but there were many on the faces of the departing audience members after this performance – no doubt the composer would have appreciated that!
    The credit must go to the choir's conductor and Musical Director, Susannah Wapshott, whose well-judged tempi and sharp ear for balance gave momentum to the energetic movements, yet allowed the more reflective passages to make their mark without outstaying their welcome. Throughout the performance, the members of the McOpera orchestra, particularly the woodwind players, made the most of Haydn's orchestral writing, relishing especially the apt pictorial detail for all the ‘creatures numberless' mentioned in the text, while never overwhelming the singers.
    Of the soloists, soprano Sian Winstanley, soared easily above the choir and orchestra when required, but also gave poised accounts of both her arias, making light of their considerable difficulties, and in the final part of the oratorio, as Eve, duetted nimbly and sweetly with the Adam of David Stout. Earlier, as the angel Raphael, he had impressed with the dynamic variety of his singing, as well as the range of his voice, encompassing a sonorous bottom D to describe the sinuously creeping worm, a splendid example of the innocent humour which can often be overlooked in performances of this work, but which, to the obvious delight of the audience, he was not afraid to exploit. RCS Alumnus William Searle was the mellifluous tenor, whose musicality shone through all his singing. Though on paper he seemed the least experienced of the three soloists, he was certainly no weak link, and made the most of all he was given to sing, adding greatly to the success of the performance.
    And the choir? It was good to see and hear them in fine, well-balanced voice in a work which suited them well, and played to their strengths. Entries were confidently delivered - they had obviously been well-rehearsed - and the choir members seemed to be enjoying themselves, so as a result we did too.
    The whole evening added up to a performance of which Haydn would have been proud.
    - Derek Clark

    Introduction for Radio3 play - The piece has three main sections. The first section/stanza aims to depict the beauty and tranquility of the Loch Lomond area. The choir creates a bed of thick, lush harmonies that supports the two soloists who soar over the choir creating a feeling of space and expansiveness, just like the landscape itself.
    The second and third stanzas create the main body of the piece. The text talks about how the changing weather conditions are harming the area and yet Loch Lomond itself is a fantastic resource in the fight against climate change. There's a sense of urgency in the music with fast, constantly changing meters, an energetic piano accompaniment which drives the music and bold, homophonic declarations from the choir.
    There's a brief return to the opening material which fizzles away before the final section. To conclude the piece, I harmonised the original Loch Lomond folk tune almost in a hymn like fashion which the choir hum inwardly as a final homage to the area that means so much to them.
    - Aileen Sweeney

    I was very moved by ‘Breathing Space', how it captured the sentiments of the choir about your beautiful environment and the urgency of the climate emergency in harmony. The lyrics are moving but it was the use of the voice and breath that I felt really touched me, connecting the idea of human breath and the breathing of trees and the world. I could sense it's complexity but the choir really pulled it off and it was very confidently delivered. Fab, I really hope you perform it often now.

    You are all very inspiring to have worked so hard to put this together in such challenging circumstances. I thought your set up was great and I felt very safe as well as welcomed in the church.

    Congratulations on a wonderful evening! I hope you are pleased with how it went and that the recording has captured the magic.
    - Making Music Scotland Manager

    Please do pass on a massive thanks and well done to the choir when you next see them all. The concert was fantastic and I'm chuffed to bits!
    - Message from Aileen Sweeney (Breathing Place composer)

    I just wanted to say how much we enjoyed the concert on Sunday. The choir sang beautifully and the orchestra were wonderful. Vivaldi's Gloria is such a well-known piece that sometimes it just feels very ordinary but HOC's performance was so alive it had me carried away. I wanted to stand up and cheer at the end of that but didn't have the courage! "Breathing Space" was also very enjoyable and seeing the words and those beautiful photographs just added to it. I don't know how the choir managed to learn it, well done to them. The humming at the end was incredibly moving.
    So a huge thank you and well done to everyone for an evening that lifted us up and gave us great joy.

    Just a short note to say how much I enjoyed last night's concert. The Vivaldi was done with enormous liveliness by the choir and supported by two excellent soloists. Breathing Space was immensely effective and what a wonderful peaceful ending!

    Well done to you all


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