The 18-strong Consort of Voices filed quietly into the back of the church behind the audience and with no introduction swept the listeners up into their atmospheric hour-long recital with a warm and human rendition of Eric Whitacre’s Lux Arumque.
Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo’s Ubi Caritas then began as a processional: the choir moving down the aisle and arriving to present their beautifully balanced harmonies from the cool, resonant apse of Canongate Kirk.
This quiet theatricality and sensitivity to the concert’s physical setting show that Stuart Hope’s choir has achieved a measure of confidence and sophistication that takes their concerts beyond simple presentation of the notes on the page.
This was a kaleidoscopic hour, shifting – like the northern lights themselves – from emphatic display to suggestive colourings, from revelations of immense spacial writing to clustering constellations of micro-harmonies.
The programme of Scandinavian and Baltic music, mainly written in the past 30 years, focused around a Scottish centrepiece by Tom Cunningham, setting six poems by Alexander McCall Smith. Scotland At Night, written in 2007, is a delightful nocturnal ramble through the moods of Scotland after dark. For me the finest writing came in ‘Trout Loch’, where deep rippling ostinati from the male voices underlie scintillating pinpricks of light from the female voices; and in ‘Simmer Dim in Shetland’ where the widespread vocal range captures the energising, awe-inspiring sense of the north that lies at the heart of this concert programme.