Latest News

  • Vivaldi Gloria with Aberdeen Sinfonietta Review by Alan Cooper
  •  Date Posted: Fri, 24 Nov 2023


    Sunday 19th November 2023
    Music Hall Aberdeen

    Garry Walker Conductor
    Moira Docherty Soprano
    Tara Leiper Alto


    Mikhail Verbytskyi (1851 – 1870)
    The National Anthem of Ukraine arr. John Hearne
    George Frideric Handel (1685 – 1759)
    Overture and Arrival of the Queen of Sheba from Solomon
    Antonio Vivaldi (1678 – 1741)
    Gloria in D RV589
    Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827)
    Symphony No. 3 in E flat op. 55 “Eroica”

    Aberdeen Sinfonietta were at their expected best for their Autumn Concert in Aberdeen’s Music Hall. For this concert, they were to be joined by Con Anima Chamber Choir, bringing together the very best the City has to offer in both instrumental and choral music making. The upstairs in the Music Hall was well filled. Downstairs was all right but considering the quality of the performances we were about to enjoy, I would have been happy to see it packed. Nevertheless, there is nowhere else in Aberdeen that would have been able to accommodate Sunday’s audience.
    As has been a regular feature of these concerts, the music began with The National Anthem of Ukraine and this year, with Con Anima in attendance onstage, the words of the Anthem were also sung. I was pleased that conductor Garry Walker asked us all to stand for the Anthem. In previous years, myself and a few others did stand, this year everyone did.
    Then, it was time for the concert proper to begin. The Overture from Handel’s oratorio Solomon is quite extensive and in several parts. It was an opportunity for Sinfonietta’s string players to show just what they could do. The playing was wonderfully clean, clear and well balanced. Blair Cargill added the spicing of harpsichord sound albeit on an electronic instrument. A pair of oboes were also there in the overture but it was in the Arrival of the Queen of Sheba that they had their moments centre stage as it were, and they were excellent. A sizzlingly fine performance indeed. 
    As the late James Lobban wrote in his excellent note reproduced in Sunday’s programme, Vivaldi’s Gloria is in 12 sections beginning with the full chorus with strings oboe and trumpet, that latter played with considerable delicacy by Alan Haggart. The blend of instruments and chorus was perfectly well balanced, clean, bright and exhilarating. Our two female voice soloists Moira Docherty and Tara Leiper blended nicely in the Laudamus Te. Tara Leiper though an alto had to sing second soprano here and it worked pleasingly. In the Domine Deus soprano soloist Moira Docherty was supported by a delicious blend of oboe, harpsichord, cello and double bass. That was a highlight of the performance. Tara’s first solo opened with a delightful cello solo played by Alison MacDonald, and you don’t get better than that. The second alto solo had to contend with full orchestra but I think she did well. Throughout the work, orchestra and chorus were splendid and in the fugal ending, Cum Sancto Spiritu the music really took off brilliantly. Can I say that throughout the singing, the sopranos soared skyward magnificently and both tenors and basses were excellent. You don’t always get that with some choirs but then Con Anima are special, being numerically perfectly well balanced.
    I have heard numerous performances of Beethoven’s Eroica. Some of these have been heavy and wet so I was not sure what to expect. Well, Sunday’s performance was conducted with real razzle-dazzle spirit by Garry Walker. He put his whole body into a sprightly, animated first movement that for me was a revelation. There were things that stood out in this performance that I had hardly noticed before, things that made sense in Beethoven’s writing, things that had simply passed me by in some other performances. Throughout the symphony there were splendid moments of solo playing, horn, flutes and later clarinet. The strings were marvellous with melodies that swept past in that first movement almost as if we were in a fast train with the music whizzing past, and yet nothing was lost. The second movement was slower and as the programme note stated ‘with an almost tangible sense of deep tragedy’ and yet, with the way in which Sinfonietta’s strings delivered Beethoven’s delicious melody, I could only feel optimistic.
    In the Scherzo, Sinfonietta’s delightful horn trio took us out on a hunting expedition. There was a marvellous sense of the open air in this performance.
    For the final movement, Garry Walker brought back the full energy he had brought to the first movement of the Symphony. Every section of the orchestra excelled. Horns called out to the trumpets who replied and let’s not forget the splendid Isabel John on timpani. That is a part of the orchestra in Beethoven’s time that gives the music its very heartbeat along perhaps with the three double basses on Sunday. Above all, what contributed to the success of this particular performance was that the orchestra was exactly the right size.


  • Sound Festival 23 - Thanks for braving the rain!
  •  Date Posted: Mon, 30 Oct 2023

    To our loyal supporters who braved the rain on Saturday afternoon - Thank you for attending our Sound Festival concert in the Art Gallery. Although we are not really used to singing such contemporary pieces, it seemed to go very well and all credit to Tara and James our Conductors and Kassia, Pixie & Laura our three young new composers :-) It's not often we get to sing 3 world premieres in one day! We hope to be able to share a recording soon for those who weren't able to attend (we've had a word with those naughty people at the SCO scheduing their concert at the same time as us in the Music Hall :-0)

    Now its onwards to our next Concert  - Vivaldi's Gloria with Aberdeen Sinfonietta in the Music Hall on the evening of Sunday 19th November, shortly followed by a host of Christmas gigs to get you in the Festive mood.. More details to follow when Mince pies and Mulled wine are more in season.

  • Free Sound Festival Concert!
  •  Date Posted: Sat, 23 Sep 2023
    Free Sound Festival Concert!

    Spotlight gig: Con Anima Chamber Choir

    Conducted by Tara Leiper

    Con Anima perform new works by emerging Scottish composers Laura HeneghanPixie Nishina, and Kassia Bailey, following a 3 month composer development project under the guidance of composer James Weeks

    Our spotlight gigs are a series of 30 minute concerts aimed at giving increased visibility to emerging and/or local composers and performers and are part of our soundcreators programme supported by Creative Scotland, the PRS for Music Foundation Talent Development Partner programme, Aberdeen City Council, Radcliffe Trust, Fenton Arts Trust, Hugh Fraser Foundation and The William Syson Foundation.

  • We are Recruiting!
  •  Date Posted: Wed, 28 Jun 2023
    We are Recruiting!
    Con Anima is looking for new members who have choral singing experience, some skill in sight-singing and the confidence to sing one-to-a-part if required. 
    We specialise in contemporary and less performed repertoire, often unaccompanied. 

    Anyone interested is invited to an open rehearsal workshop from 7.30 to 9.00pm on Thursday 24 August 2023, led by Con Anima’s Musical Director Tara Leiper, giving a taster of what we do and how we do it. Venue: John Skinner Centre (behind St Andrews Cathedral, King Street, Aberdeen). This will include warm-up singing exercises, and a chance to sing some four-part music with members of the choir.  It is an opportunity for potential new members to meet existing choir members.  After the workshop those interested in membership would be invited, on another day, for a private audition with our Musical Director and an informal discussion with our Chair before a mutual decision is made to proceed.
  • Welcome Tara!
  •  Date Posted: Sun, 30 Apr 2023
    Welcome Tara!

    We are delighted to announce that Con Anima has appointed Tara Leiper as our Musical Director with immediate effect. We have already started work with Tara preparing our next concert in Monymusk as part of their Arts Festival (details below) and we are looking forward to working together and sounding even better!

    A short bio follows for those who don’t know Tara:
    Tara graduated from Aberdeen’s Northern College of Education with first class honours and worked in Further Education for 13 years preparing students in all instruments and singing for performing and teaching diplomas.  She now works freelance as an accompanist, voice teacher and conductor and runs a busy teaching practice in the NE of Scotland.  She is an examiner with London College of Music and an adjudicator for the British and International Federation of Festivals and is a passionate advocate for community and amateur music making, specialising in singing and voice use.

    Con Anima’s next 2 concerts - both on a Springtime theme with Madrigals, Britten, Moeran & Finzi Part songs:

    • 7pm Saturday 20th May @Monymusk Church, AB51 7HJ
    • 12 noon Saturday 27th May @ St Andrews Cathedral Aberdeen, AB24 5AX (a shortened version of the Monymusk concert as a lunchtime recital)
    We hope to see you there!
Brought to you by Making Music
Copyright © 2024 Con Anima