Archive for November, 2009

review: Cambridge Music Festival 09 Still Falls the Rain

November 26, 2009

Still Falls the Rain was an ideal title for an evening of high quality music in Robinson College Chapel on Thursday 12th November as part of the Cambridge Music Festival. The work of the same name by Benjamin Britten was undoubtedly one of the highlights. Tenor John McMunn drew every nuance of suffering, anguish and desolation from Britten’s score while Alec Frank Gemmill (horn) and pianist Matthew Schellhorn synthesized perfectly. 

This eclectic programme included a fine performance of Schubert’s Auf dem Strom and Britten’s Now sleeps the crimson petal. The evening also celebrated the anniversaries of two composers: Haydn and Mendelssohn. Matthew Schellhorn’s phenomenal technique was evident in his performance of Haydn’s Andante con varizaioni in F minor and  John and Matthew performed Mendelssohn’s songs Neue Liebe 19a no 4, Auf Flugen des Gesanges Op. 34 no 2, and Pagenlied Op posth. with much grace and beauty and  Reisenlied Op 34 no 6 with rare vitality and momentum. 

A set of six miniature compositions commissioned by Matthew Schellhorn was a major event.  Jeremy Hurlow’s graphic portrayal in Butterfly was  perceptively unified (while his earlier composition, Unbidden Visions, was noticeably potent and succinct). Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s Stolen Rhythm burst with captivating energy and Michael Zev Gordon’s Innocente indulged in delicious Debussy-like reverie. The other composers, Tim Watts, Colin Riley, Cecilia McDowall provided very interesting and varied works even though each miniature was based on the same recurring theme: the letters to H-A-Y-D-N. 

This was indeed a fitting contribution to the Festival.

Review: The King’s School Ely 18th Old Dispensary Concert

November 26, 2009

The King’s School Ely is moving from strength to strength. Renowned for a very strong music department, the school presented yet another spectacular concert in the Hayward Theatre recently. The con cert was in aid of the Old Dispensary, a community centre prevented from Council closure by a group of concerned citizens and kept open by the contributions of such worthy institutions as the King’s School.

This Eighteenth Old Dispensary Concert included some 230 talented musicians. Under the temporary directorship of Ian Sutcliffe, these performers offered a programme of some of the finest music equal to any of our local high profile events. The Concert Band directed by Michel Sedgwick opened the evening with varied and sophisticated works including Air of the Court from Ancient Airs and Dances Suite no 3 by Respighi, an intriguing Beethoven’s Greeting by Philip Sparke and an exciting and demonic Danse Diabolique by Joseph Hellmesberger.

A charming girls’ Percussion Group directed by Will Sivier provided a delightful interlude before the Brass Ensemble (director Michel Sedgwick) played Farandole from Suite L’Arlesiènne by Georges Bizet and the familiar engaging New York, New York by Fred Ebb and John Kander. The trombones really came into their own here.  

Peter North’s vocal training know-how was evident in a wonderful medley by the King’s Barbers, a group of young men, many of them ex-choristers from Ely Cathedral, singing in close harmony. Their sexy version of Red Riding Hood was particularly memorable.

After songs by Voiceexchange and interval, the programme reached new heights of expertise. The Jazz Band directed by Julian Landymore featured amazing moments of precision and cohesion and some splendid guitar improvisation. Pieces included Blue Trane (John Coltrane), Night in Tunisia (Dizzy Gillespie), In a Sentimental Mood (Duke Ellington) and Pick up the Pieces (Average White Band).

A new Chamber Choir directed by Ian Sutcliffe produced some gorgeous sounds in a very effective arrangement of The Way We Were by Marvin Hamlish. These singers phrased the varied textures and dynamics exquisitely.

A commendable performance of the Allegro from Concerto for Four Violins by Telemann was followed by a very appealing and haunting Ashokan Farewell by Jay Ungar in which Chloe Crowther played an impressive violin solo and was accompanied by a rich, mature-sounding string orchestra directed by Helen Medlock.

The evening culminated with a splendid performance by the Senior Orchestra under the directorship of Ian Sutcliffe. This large orchestra developed new pizzazz and refinement under Ian’s innovative control. The performance of The English Folk Song Suite by Ralph Vaughan Williams captured the composer’s sweeping style with appealing momentum, assurance and precision.

This was indeed a grand concert deserving the enthusiastic reception given by this attentive and packed audience. 

Contact: email

Review: Cambridge Music Festival: Come Tango

November 26, 2009

Cambridge, one of the country’s pinnacles of academic endeavour, showed another side of its multifaceted character in Come Tango, a concert for the Cambridge Music Festival . This event celebrated rare rhythmic abandonment that only the most joyous of Latin rhythms can stimulate.

Conductor Darrell Davison, gyrating with mesmerizing authority, inspired Cambridge Orchestra to moments of flamboyant ecstasy (exemplified by Braziliana by Ricardo de Pandeiros), sophistication (exemplified by Gerswin’s Rumba) or potent tensions that are integral characteristics of the Tango (exemplified by the works of Piazzolla).

The evening was filled with varied expressions of that magnetic dance that has universal appeal. Works included Le Grand Tango, Libergano and Soledad  (Piazzolla), Three Tangos (Mátyás Seiber), Tomo y Obligo and Por una Cabeza (Carlos Gardel), and Malambo (Alberto Ginastera).

Dancers added colour and vitality to the experience with carefully choreographed movements ranging from the mesmerizing minimalism and potent interaction of Ivan Arandia and Rachel Greenberg to the empathetic flurries and swift manoeuvres of the other dancers: Richard Manuel , Jenny Sayer, Hilmar Gudmundsoon, Natalia Safianbowicz, Costa Rocos and Floridia Ferrara. The highly accomplished solo cellist Liubov Ulybysheva also enhanced the performances considerably.

With abundant percussion pulsating infectious rhythms, this highly energized evening culminated with a splendid performance of Ravel’s Boléro. Although this familiar work is based on the constant repetition of that famous snare drum rhythm and the gradual developing melodic phrases, this performance thrived on variety and breathed life into the music as the dancers interwove their unforgettable interpretations.

review an Evening with Alexander McCall Smith

November 21, 2009

Not even the Queen’s arrival in Ely could faze this amazing writer. Topping and Company had originally planned to hold an evening with Alexander McCall Smith in the Cathedral for it was bound to be a sell out but plans had to be changed when it became known that the Queen was visiting Ely the next day.

Completely unabashed Alexander McCall Smith had the audience in stitches. The building works on the stage of the Hayward Theatre the King’s School had kindly offered became the latest of the artistic entries for the Turner prize, the police outside protecting such valuable works. The listeners knew all this was fallacy but with his unique light-hearted and guileless humour, this giant of a man poked gentle fun at the world and his characters in such a way that we knew he spoke profound truths while we laughed.

His list of books is phenomenal. Just to mention “44 Scotland Street”, “The World according to Bertie”, “The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” and his Sunday Philosophy Series is enough to indicate what a household name he has become.

As he spoke, we were privileged to share this author’s preoccupation with his fictional characters and their lives. His antics with the Really Terrible Orchestra in which he plays ‘part’ of the bassoon (only up to high D) and his frank admissions of ignorance with regard to the way cars work were just two examples of his disarming honesty. Only he would ring up a certain psychiatrist to find out details of what can go wrong with cars before he wrote about it in one of his books.

His kindly relationship with his editors, publishers and readers and the pressures he is under to create certain types of events brought forth more hilarious discussion. He did not succumb directly to the call for a car chase – in his own inimitable way, he solved this problem by having a shopping trolley chase. The anomalies in his characters’ development – just how long, for example, should an apprenticeship last? – just how long can Bertie remain so young while all the characters around him grow old? It became clear that it simply did not matter, for such strong characterisation by this author meant that we readers, too, did not want Bertie or the apprentices to grow old or mature. With such strong writing, anything can be made to happen, and in the hands of Alexander McCall Smith, anything does happen. His highly fertile imagination swept us along in his wonderful, tender world of human beings of all different kinds and their respective dilemmas that we share. 


review Tribute to Betjeman

November 21, 2009

Cameo Theatre really knows how to entertain and inform. Always a fan of Betjeman, I was expecting (and looking forward to) a series of poetry readings – poems that I have thoroughly enjoyed over the years. When Cameo Theatre began their tribute to this fine poet, their show was far beyond such meagre expectations. In a seamless succession of character sketches and insights into the poet, we were introduced to some new, rarely- heard work but we were also allowed to bathe in the familiar beauty of some of the old favourites such as Diary of a church mouse and In Westminster.  As we witnessed the callous bureaucrat licking his lip over the demolishment of Westminster Abbey or the bickering members of a ‘wicked PCC’ it became obvious how ‘up-to-date’ this so-called ‘old-fashioned’ poet could be. His verses with their regular rhythm never developed the patter of poor poetry, rather they were filled with quipped turns of phrase that subtly cut to the heart of the matter with a barbed tongue.  We met caricatures of a variety of people we know; few aspects of human frailty, wickedness and eccentricity and religious attitude were left untouched.    

Gordon Cummings, Madeleine Forrester, Lindsey McCraig, Mike Morrish, Tricia Peroni, Stuart Warren, Andrew Watts and Martin Woodruff formed an excellent team of highly accomplished thespians. Director and show designer Rex Walford is to be congratulated for such a splendid production.

The show was all the more successful for the vital contributions of Tony Broscomb (Stage Director), Richard Peroni (Lighting Director), Wendy Walford (Costume Director and Production Manager) Linda Jarvis (Assistant Stage Manager).

This was indeed a most fitting “explorati0on and celebration of the faith, fears and foibles of Sir John Betjeman”.

For more information from the Betjeman Society contact: membership Secretary, 386 Hurst Rd.,Bexley, Kent DA5 3JY

Events in the Ely area

November 9, 2009

Sunday 6th December 2009 Christmas Concert Ely Sinfonia

Friday 18th December 2009 Christmas Carols The Isle Singers Ely Station 5-7 p.m.

Friday 11th December 2009 Mediaeval Babes and Ely Imps Ely Cathedral

Tuesday 22nd December 2009 Ely Cathedral Christmas Concert Ely Cathedral

Saturday 30th January 2010 Peace Child – Alpha Omega by David Gordon (Cat Steven’s brother) Ely Cathedral

Saturday 6th March 2010 Northern Lights Ely Sinfonia

Saturday 27th March 2010 St Matthew Passion by J.S. Bach with Rogers Covey-Crump of The Hilliard Ensemble, a specialist period orchestra and Jonathan Lilley

Saturday 19th June 2010 Summer Concert

Saturday 17th July 2010 Cambridge Philharmonic Ely Cathedral

Friday 1st October 2010 Travellers’ Tales Ely Sinfonia Ely Cathedral

Saturday 30th October 2010 Petite Messe Solennelle by Rossini Lady Chapel Ely Cathedral