Review of Ely Sinfonia’s concert ‘From Russia with Love’ on Saturday 28th April 2018

April 29, 2018

From its inauguration in 1999, Ely Sinfonia conducted by Steve Bingham has developed into a fine orchestra and tonight’s concert certainly had its highlights.

I arrived thinking we would have some easy popular tunes to indulge our romantic senses while we admired the magnificent spectacle of the large orchestra with its variety of instruments and the beautiful cathedral.

The title of the concert was ‘From Russia with Love’  featuring three very well-known composers, Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev and Kachaturian, all known for some of the most famous love tunes, so the concert was bound to be full of easy-listening.

However, this was no easy ride – we were kept very much awake and alive as these splendid musicians presented the works with energy, precision and a wealth of tonal variation. In the hands of Steve Bingham, the music ebbed and flowed deliciously sometimes building up to tremendous climaxes that had us swept along in their wake. All sections: strings, woodwind, brass, and percussion had grand moments when highly talented performers shone.

The works performed included Kachaturian’s ‘Spartacus Suite no.2’, Tchaikovsky’s ‘Romeo and Juliet Suite no 1, and his second symphony (the ‘Little Russian’). The concert ended with suite no 1 from Prokofiev’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’.

Our expectations were well met when the theme from the TV series, the ‘Onedin Line’ (the Adagio in the Spartacus Suite) resounded in the vaults of the cathedral, the strings especially ringing out a beautiful rich tone. This swelled our hearts splendidly. Tchaikovsky’s second symphony was most enjoyable and gave us glimpses of the later work by this composer. When the Prokiev came we waited with bated breath for the theme we were expecting, but no, this suite was much more complex, colourful and intricate than expected. However, there were numerous singable tunes the orchestra brought out well, and the standard of playing in this piece and the effectiveness of the music compensated more than enough for our minor disappointment.

This was a wonderful concert. The next one to look forward to is on Saturday 29th September 2018.

Contact: box.office@elycathedral.org  www.elysinfonia.co.uk

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Review of ‘Wind in the Willows’ produced by KD productions on Friday 6th April 2018 at The Maltings Ely

April 13, 2018

KD production’s presentation of ‘The Wind in the Willows’ at the Maltings in Ely was a joy to behold. All the favourite characters were there: the flamboyant Toad (played by Terry Burns), the river-loving Ratty (Ross Townsend Green), best friend Mole (Rosie Coles) wise old Badger (Oliver Scott) and evil Chief Weasel (Oliver Tattersfield). There were adorable rabbits, the easily rattled policeman, pretty Washerwoman’s daughter, the Toad-look-alike-Washerwoman and a number of weasels and stoats.

The scenes played out swiftly and smoothly so that we were soon swept up in the drama. The singing was first rate and the accompanying music well selected adding flavour to some of the most effective scenes.

Highlights for me included the effective way in which the characters interplayed and the ingenious scenes of Toad’s escape.

Director Oliver Scott, choreographer Katherine Hickmott and producers Scott Ritchie Productions and KD Productions (Daniel Bell and Katherine Hickmott) and team are to be congratulated for presenting such a great story in such a most enjoyable way.

The next production to look forward to is ‘Alice in Wonderland’ which will be touring in Spring and Autumn in 2019.

contacts: http://www.kdtheatre.co.uk and scottritchieproductions.com

 

Review of Ely Choral Society’s performance of Bach’s St John Passion in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 24th March 2018

March 25, 2018

Ely Choral Soc March 18 Andrew Parnell and Rogers Covey-CrumpEly Choral Society, the Chameleon Arts Baroque Orchestra, soloists and organist gave a splendid performance of Bach’s St. John’s Passion in Ely Cathedral on Saturday.

Under the baton of director Andrew Parnell, the choir flourished, often giving an emotive, responsive and well-disciplined comment on events. Under his direction this work was given new life, and with Rogers Covey-Crump as the Evangelist, the die was cast: this was going to be a marvellous performance and indeed it was.

Rogers Covey-Crump, the nephew of a one-time housemaster of the Canonry at King’s Ely, proved to be a musician of the highest quality. With his wealth of musical background and experience, he held the narrator part magnificently, telling the story clearly, expressively and highly effectively, drawing us inextricably into events.

The other soloists were also impressive and included Henry Hawkesworth (representing Jesus), Camilla Harris (soprano), Helen Chariston (alto), Hiroshi Amako (tenor),and Julian Chou-Lambert (bass) along with Angelica Hunt (representing the Maid), Nicholas Ward (Peter), Charles Schneider (officer) and David Gascoigne (servant).

Highlights, besides the narrator, included the chorales, Jesus and Camilla Harris’  Air ‘O Heart ,melt in weeping’. The chorales were nothing like to slow laboured people’s hymns in other performances. Here each chorale was varied in speed and expression, giving them character and meaning; they became an integral part of proceedings. In one single phrase, Henry Hawkesworth proved his talent. When he sang ‘It is finished’, he infused the phrase with an unmistakably potent tone and his sense of timing and pace captured the sentiments expressed strongly.  Camilla Harris had a delightful voice and showed phenomenal sensitivity and sympathy when she sang ‘O Heart, melt in weeping’. Indeed the main soloists were all outstanding the latter being only two examples of their combined worth.

With diverse authentic sounds coming from the orchestra, the instrumentalists enhanced the performance particularly well, giving the whole work credence.

Edmund Aldhouse, renowned Assistant Organist at Ely Cathedral, as always, accompanied superbly on the organ when required.

The next event featuring Ely Choral Society to look forward to will be on Saturday 7th July 730 p.m. in the Hayward Theatre, King’s School, Ely.

contact: http://www.elychoralsociety.org/

 

Review of Viva’s production of Sue Townsend’s ‘Bazaar and Rummage’ in The Brook Soham on the 8th February 2018

February 13, 2018

You are always assured of good quality when you go to a Viva production and ‘Bazaar and Rummage’ was no exception. The clever script regularly played on words –the first sign of this in the title. We were not only entertained in the setting of a bazaar and rummage sale, we were also immersed in the bizarre behaviours of an array of anxiety-ridden agoraphobics and their so-called carers who had enough problems of their own.

The acting was excellent and had us thoroughly immersed throughout the play. Characters included Gwenda (played by Mary Barnes) the neurotic control freak, Fliss (Hannah Schunmann) the seemingly sole character on track only to reveal her own deep-seated anxieties in the end, Katrina (Sarah Shorney)  a dumb blond obsessed with Barry Manilow, make-up and pretty dresses, Bell-Bell (Anthea Kenna) with her obsessive compulsive disorder cleaning everything in sight, many times, wonderful Margaret (Kirsten Martin) outlandishly swearing, smoking against the rules and telling the harsh truth no matter what the circumstances and the WPC (Vicki Jelleyman) arriving near the end of the play provided another anomaly: a police woman who is afraid and hates people and the world.

The success of the play was not only the wonderful characterization by the cast, but the truthfulness of the anxieties, interaction and back-stabbing of the characters that is easily recognizable in any age.

Yet with all this serious exploration of the human condition the play was also hilarious. We could almost predict the rebellious quips and colourful comments by Margaret who, for example, was told not to swear and immediately and naturally replied with a string of expletives complaining about being restricted.

Director Gail Baker and her team are to be congratulated for such a wonderful, hilarious yet thought-provoking evening’s entertainment.

I look forward to their next event: ‘Hairspray’ from the 7th to the 10th March 2018 at the Brook, Soham contact details: vivayouth@hotmail.co.uk

 

Review of Warren Mailley-Smith’s performance in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 10th February 2018

February 13, 2018

Local concert pianist, Warren Mailley-Smith, gave a wonderful St Valentine’s concert on Saturday. He has a phenomenal technique that never ceases to amaze. The strength, agility and fluidity of his playing in the most demanding passages enhanced the pieces wonderfully. His fingers flew over the keys giving each phrase the right amount of pressure so that we were mesmerised with clear powerful melodies and flowing accurate rapid accompaniments. He often used that special musical technique of holding back just a moment, making the listener wait until the last second before a poignant note is struck inextricably drawing us into the inner workings of the music.

The programme was especially well devised and the inclusion of the highly competent Veles ensemble and Susan Parkes (soprano) coloured the performance positively.

The variety of composers included in the programme added to the sparkle of this wonderful evening too. The compositions chosen were those unforgettable, romantic favourites that reflected the romantic nature of this Valentine’s Concert perfectly.

In Debussy’s ‘Claire de Lune’, I could at easily imagine moonlight shimmering on the water, his fluency  reinforcing the nature of this impressionistic work.  Other notable items included Mendelssohn’s ‘Song without Words’, Liszt’s ‘Lieberstraume 3’, Chopin’s ‘Fantasy Impromptu’, Pachelbel’s Canon in D and a delightful selection of Puccini’s best arias. The thrill and excitement of the final rhythmical foray in works by Piazolla, brought this wonderful concert to a most entertaining close.

For more information: http://www.warrenmailley-smith.com.

 

Review of ‘The Wiz’ by Witchford Amateur Dramatic Society at Witchford Village College on Friday 2nd February 2018

February 5, 2018

Who needs TV when you see a show like ‘The Wiz’ produced and directed by Witchford’s own Lucy Short? I stopped watching one of those live talent shows on TV recently because the singer was NOT using his voice well. It was excruciating.

Yet, here, in the village of Witchford, this so-called ‘amateur’ production reached the heights of real professionalism without a doubt. Every participant sang proficiently, their voices clear, well produced and evoking emotions that had the packed audience spellbound.

The characters were clearly defined. They were natural, and believable, not like the forced American caricatures that so many productions of The Wizard of Oz exhibit. Dorothy (played by Kerry Maltby) was wonderful, not so much the naïve little girl but a real flesh and blood young human being enduring trials that brought her insight.

The scarecrow (Joe Robbins) had the most amazing vacant expressions. We were in no doubt that he needed ‘a brain’.

Lion (Steve Barker) trembled delightfully, using his costume to great effect, the Tin Man (Craig ‘Banjo’ West) opened with very realistic mechanical movements that soon melted as we witnessed his apparent developing ‘heart’.

Aunt Em (Lucy Short) and Uncle Henry (Dylan Cardwell) were just as you would imagine a kindly aunt and uncle.

The witches were personalities that stood out clearly. Evillene (Sarah Bloor) revelled in her malevolent antics, Glinda (Carole Robbins) was goodness itself, while the lovable Addaperle (Chloe Grimes) looking good in blue hair and red-rimmed glasses reminded many of us of a kind Aunty we know.

The Wiz (Claire Mead) huffed and puffed with glorious intimidation made all the better by her amazing costume.

Other vital contributors to this fine drama were Kalidah (Kerry Wallis), Lord High Underling (Dan Waller), The Gatekeeper (Chris Jones), Messenger (Emma Mcclagish), the Crows (Alfie Peckham, Toby D’Cunha), Head Munchkin (Chris Jones), Assistant Munchkin (Dan Waller), the Wiz Singers and the myriads of young people filling the stage.

The stage was packed, yet movements were interwoven very effectively, the participants living the part, especially some of the highly talented youngsters.

Costumes, scenery, and make up were splendid.

The band excelled with a wide variety of sounds and sound effects that created an up-beat, infectious, all-embracing atmosphere that was a vital part of events, not a mere accompaniment.

The sound was also expertly controlled so that we could clearly hear the soloists as well as the amazing backing groups.

This was indeed a fantastic production. Director/Producer Lucy Short and her co-producer Craig ‘Banjo’ West, Jonathan Carter and Naomi D’Cunha (Musical Directors) and their teams are to be congratulated for such a wonderful evening’s entertainment of the highest quality. We are very fortunate to have such talented, hard-working villagers in our midst.

A review of G4 in Ely Cathedral on Thursday 23rd November 2017

November 26, 2017

With the queue of people spilling right out onto the pavement from the entrance of Ely Cathedral, it was obvious that this evening was going to be something particularly special and G4 is a group that has certainly stood the test of time and is as popular as ever.

The evening contained a full and varied programme of music that not only gave us a good taste of Christmas to come, it also touched the heart strings as only experienced singers can do. There were times of joyful acknowledgement of the coming season with traditional carols such as ‘Away in a Manger’, ’O Little Town of Bethlehem’ and ‘Good King Wenceslas’ and the audience was delighted to have the chance to join in with some of them.

The highlights for me were the more pensive moments, especially when this group: Jonathan Ansell, Ben Thapa, Mike Christie and Nick Ashby, moulded together in that memorable harmonic texture that they are renowned for. ‘I can’t help falling in love’ was especially moving.

There were also more jolly moments and the encore medley was particularly effective.

A young choir from Milton Keynes provided variety and it was not doubt that the children were delighted to be on stage with such famous people. They certainly livened up the evening with their lively song in the second half of the programme

The accompanists, A.J. Moore (guitar) and Jonathan Eyre (piano and organ) were fine musicians and supported the event superbly.

This was a highly successful even and there was no doubt that the fans weren’t disappointed. You need to book up now if you want to get into their return performance in the cathedral next year!

 

A review of ‘Prime Brass’ in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 11th November 2017

November 14, 2017

Prime Brass is renowned as an excellent group of brass players and tonight the standard of music was as high as expected. Conducted by Paul Trepte they gave magnificent performances opening proceedings with the majestic but sombre ‘Marche Triomphale du Centenaire de Napoléon’ by Louis Vierne,

This was followed by an original composition commissioned for Paul Trepte: ‘Fanfares and Chorale’. Paul’s composition was one of the highlights. He explored the contrasts of the more precisely articulated and triumphant fanfare and the more sonorous chorales intriguingly well while creating a cohesive and interesting piece as a whole.

Other delightful pieces performed by this group were ‘Salvum fac populum tuum’ by Widor and ‘A night on a Bare Mountain’ by Mussorgsky arranged by K. Singleton.

Later in the programme, Guy Llewellyn’s arrangement of ‘Mars the Bringer of War’ by Holst was especially effective and the sense of foreboding and the impending horror of war were never lost.

The younger Prime Brass group excelled themselves. Under the baton of Christopher Lawrence they flourished and the pieces they played rang out beautifully and triumphantly through the magnificent vaults of Ely Cathedral. Their ‘Fanfare for a Royal Occasion’ by Ken Naylor, Rigaudon by Campra and ‘Remember’ by Jasper Eaglesfied were delightful. ‘Remember’ was especially interesting for it was commissioned from the young composer who could be found in the midst of Junior Prime Brass. He should go far.

When the groups came together at the end of the concert, the impact of such a powerful sound and the amazing precision of their playing, especially in ‘A Poetic March’ by Alford was particularly noticeable. With fireworks resounding in the park next door before the concert began, the final piece, Handel’s ‘Fireworks Suite’ culminated the concert perfectly.

This was a splendid memorable concert in keeping with this special day.

 

Review of ‘Show of Hands’ in Ely Cathedral on Wednesday 8th November 2017

November 10, 2017

Ely Cathedral was the right place for Kirsty Merryn, Steve Knightley, Phil Beer and Miranda Sykes to enthrall the packed cathedral with their strong emotive sounds catching that intangible emotional pull of folk-like songs that tell tales of the human condition from time immemorial.

With very effective lighting that changed as the mood or message of the songs altered, these performers showed tremendous skill with their voices and with their instruments ranging from keyboard, violin, lute, accordion or guitar to double bass.

Steve Knightley, on guitar, demonstrated his emotive strengths when he first sang with Kirsty in a duet during her opening songs. Kirsty’s original songs were youthfully spirited and charming and her keyboard accompaniments tasteful and tuneful. Many of her songs are featured in her new album ‘She and I’ about women of history.

The members of this excellent acoustic band, ‘Show of Hands’, Steve Knightley, Phil Beer and Miranda Sykes were well attuned to each other and created many moving moments of beautifully blended harmony.  One of the most effective instants was when they moved down the aisle in the cathedral their voices echoing atmospherically into the vaults of this superb building. Their stage performances evoked many a melancholic story of folk from different parts of England and from different times. More often than not, they accompanied themselves with toe-tapping rhythms reminiscent of Irish exuberance and it was very hard not to tap one’s feet as their music seemingly got carried away. It was easy to see why they are so popular. There must be very few people who do not relate to the messages of their songs.

This was indeed a wonderful evening.

For more information contact http://www.showofhands.co.uk, http://www.steveknightley.co.uk, facebook.com/kirstymerryn

a review of ‘Brassed Off’ presented by Viva in Soham on Thursday 9th November 2017.

November 10, 2017

What an excellent production it was! ‘Brassed Off’ directed by Keith Gallois and Judith Collingswood and produced by Keith and Alison O’Connor, was a magnificent show. All the characters rang true and through their fine acting we were transported into the lives of the mining families in times of trouble, sharing with them the agony of poverty and the humour needed for survival. With the superb performances by Soham Comrades Brass Band, we were treated not only to an admirable presentation of what many of us remember from the film, but the music was a splendid treat too.

David Tickner played Danny to the tee. He was indeed a band conducting fanatic. His grandson Shane (played by Alfie Peckham) was an ideal young boy acting the part with natural flair.

The main miners and band members, Jim (Steve Perry), Harry (Geoff Fisher), Phil (Darren Smith) and Andy (Will Cahill) were wonderfully ‘laddish’ and some of the best scenes that were probably some of the most difficult to present successfully, were those when the band slowly disintegrated into a cacophonous mess after the members had had a few too many drinks at each village on their tour.

The wives, Vera (Sue Perry), Rita (Mandy Morrish) and Sandra (Sophie Plachcinski) were all credible partners whose passion was evident right from the start. Gloria (Amy Noonan) was a superb representative of the powerful managers who had obviously decided to close the mine, in spite of her glowing report of how successful it could have been. Her naivety came through very well and added spice to her relationship with her old flame Andy. He was indeed a young lad with an eye for the girls and incapable of arriving to band practice on time.

A mention must go to the actor Andy Gillett who gave an unnervingly realistic portrayal of the bailiff. Other vital contributors were Bridget Hickish, Gemma Politt, Dave McCalpin, Clare Gillet, Justine Whitworth, Helen Meads, Benjamin Surridge, Ruby Fordham, Sarah Boor, and Ellie Gillett.

Congratulations to everyone who took part and provided the support that is always much needed and which was very much in evidence in this excellent production. .

This was indeed a most satisfying night’s entertainment. As one member of the audience was heard to say, ‘Who needs the West End when we have productions like this here?’