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

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. 

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