Vespers by candlelight – Musick Fyne, at St John’s Church, Inverness.

Saturday had a theme to it.  In the morning, an encounter with Russian weather conditions took place at football training down at Millburn.  In the evening the Russian theme continued – this time in the cosy candlelit setting of St Johns Church. After being exposed to the rigours of the Siberian blast coming from the east in the morning it was some comfort to take shelter in the church and hear some inspired sounds from the East.

The Church was the setting for a performance of the Vespers from the All Night Vigil by the Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninov.  Local music group Musick Fyne conducted by D. James Ross gave a stunning performance of the works.

The programme notes gave some background to the music.  Apparently in the 10th century Vladimir the Great replaced the pagan beliefs of Russia with a more organised religious culture.  As part of this process, he sent emissaries worldwide to examine different religions. Seeing the Byzantine ritual, the envoys reporting from Constantinople stated:

“We no longer knew whether we were in heaven or on earth”.

It is no exaggeration to say that the performance given at St John’s had the same effect.

The church was packed for the event and the candlelight helped greatly to enhance the setting and ambience of the music.  Additionally the performers were dressed in clerical garb, which served to reinforce the monastic atmosphere of the event.  The wooden roof and masonry of the church, as well as providing a comforting feel, gave a warming resonance to the sound.

The concert opened with the group spilt in two to perform some of the Vespers.  This resulted in some divine sound work, which set the standard for the rest of the concert.  After reforming, the magical sound work continued with an amazing mix of vocal interactions. Droning and chanting were interspersed with some stunning mixing of tenor, bass, altos and soprano work.  In some sections these contrasted with each other, in others they merged together like tidal flows with sound replacing the water.

The reviewer was situated where he could look back into the audience and it was striking to see the rapt attention that was given to the performance.  In these troubles times this recital gave an indication that we are at once elements of each other (Eastern Europe mixing with Asia, Russia mixing with Scotland) and our world is too small a place for what is happening.  The music gave space for some serious contemplation.

Overall another excellent outing from one of the local musical treasures of our area.

Thanks to St John’s and the performers for hosting the reviewer.

Check out our review from last year;

Musick Fyne and Friends, 16/6/17 – Review