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ORA @Scotland Unwrapped

Scotland Unwrapped is a great series running all through this year at King's Place in London. Quite rightly, it includes many folk musicians and a lot of spoken word events. People in Scotland might take a view on which contemporary composers are being played, but I am enjoying the programming as an unusually thorough English view of Scotland. I can't remember anything like this before, on this scale, happening down here in the south.


ORA Singers' programme about the 1603 Union of the Scottish and English Crowns was certainly an event that belonged here. It was fascinating to hear dark-toned music from the Wode Psalter (a 16th century post-Reformation Scottish collection) alongside the more often performed Weelkes, Byrd, Gibbons. When ORA sang my own setting of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis (the first time I've ever heard it in a concert, rather than a church) I felt a kinship with the very spare psalm settings by David Peebles on the programme.


The most astonishing perfomance, I thought, was of Thea Musgrave's Rorate Coeli in which she sets two William Dunbar poems at once. It must surely be very challenging to rehearse this huge piece, even with excellent professionals; and I wonder what it sounded like when it was first performed in 1973, by a choral society in Greenwich. Up to now I have never heard it sung with anything like the clarity and cogency ORA gave it in this concert. Conductor Suzi Digby is a real musical explorer, and the depth of research put into this carefully assembled programme was a refreshing change from those musical potpourris which vocal ensembles frequently offer.

Pictured - I think I took this craggy snap somewhere just outside Killin, Perthshire.





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