At the end of Andrew Thomson's debut recital in The Village Arts Centre in Kilworth, Co. Cork last Friday, 4th. April, 2014, the unsuspecting audience were flabbergasted when the front rows of the auditorium suddenly rose up , to cries of 'Vivat Escamillo' and swarmed onto the stage! Escamillo, the Toréador in Bizet's 'Carmen', alias Andrew Thomson, then banned his way through the crowd to sing the stirring 'Toréador Song', joined by the mob, or rather, as you may have already guessed, by members of The Orpheus Choir!This was the rousing finale of an evening full of great musical highlights of virtuoso variety on the part of Andrew. Singing the entire performance from memory in five different languages (including Russian!) and in many different styles from oratorio and art-song to grand opera from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries, Andrew's warm, sonorous baritone voice filled the theatre, despite him having been laid low with a heavy cold the day before.
This was Andrew's professional debut as a classical singer and he certainly showed a truly professional attitude in the brave and masterly control he kept over his voice under the duress of ill health. Furthermore, what shone throughout his whole performance was a strong emotional commitment to the music and his intensely passionate renderings of the Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky songs before the interval were particularly moving.
The programme was interspersed with introductions, excellently delivered by Andrew's vocal coach, Hilary Reynolds, who is also the Musical Director of The Orpheus Choir.
The only unfortunate note in this otherwise very special evening was that Andrew's commitment was not matched by his accompanist, Michael Young, who displayed an air of remote indifference throughout the evening and played an undercooled, uncommitted, passionless performance despite all Andrew's persuasive musicianship. If Michael is looking to get more work as an accompanist in the future, he will have to work a lot harder at supporting his singers and also at ingratiating himself with an audience. Who knows, maybe Mr. Young needs to get a little 'older'?
About John Roach: He studied musicology at the University of Kent and writes notes on music history and music criticisms for several leading music magazines in the UK. He was invited on this special occasion by Hans van den Bos to write a review of Andrew's concert for The Orpheus Choir News.
The photographs for this edition were taken by Hans van den Bos.