Music For New Ross opened their imaginatively named Three Sunday Afternoons At Three Thirty, with a world-class concert featuring an amazing Dutch soprano, Lennake Ruiten with Finghin Collins on piano, at the cold St. Mary’s Church. This was an unexpected gift for the new year and the programme just got better to erupt into a glorious standing ovation.

Ruiten is a young soprano with a flair not just for Leider songs but a rich operatic voice full of florid tones and dramatic exphasis. Finghin Collins on piano was not just accompanying but a co-contributor extracting meaning and exphasis from brief tunes.

A Brahams set was lovely and expressive with songs of sadness, unrequited love, spurned hopes with plaintive tones and tender moments. A Schubert selection was a delight with a theme of Night and Ruiten’s intros to the audience were apt and welcome and she mentioned things a cursory Google wouldn’t tell you. The tragic poet Mayrhofer set the wistful nostalgic tone and the audience were impressed by the detail and power in her vocal technique.

Initially, I felt the work of English contemporary composer, Jonathan Dove, would be to vapid or light as I have mixed feelings about his whimsical opera, The Enchanted Pig and TV opera Flight but Ruiten struck vocal gold with Five Am’rous Sighs by Dove. Between The Sheets was sexy – imagination show me all your charms. She brought musical theatre techniques to establish the fretting dismal and whimsical tones of Dove.

After the interval the dusk and cold settled in and Ruiten just got better and better. The wispy watercolour tones of Faure spoke of love eternal and the power of Duparc brought her into dramatic operatic mode. What explosive emotive power she had in her voice and Collins made the piano tremble with grand operatic big notes.

The choice of Rachmaninoff tunes to poetry by Pushkin and Tolstoy created a quality finale, rich in the ache for homeland. I could almost hear a balalaika play such was the feeling in The Harvest Of Sorrow.

Again, this was world-class and so impressive.

There is a fine synergy between the Christ Church Programme and New Ross, like a mini-winter festival treat. On Sunday 8 February, Eric Sweeney will play the organ at Christ Church at noon and at 3.30 in New Ross you will get Shaun Davey, Rita Connolly, Gerry O Beirne and Eoin Begley (concertina).