Archive for December, 2009

Review of Mediaeval Babes and Ely Imps in Ely Cathedral December 2009

December 16, 2009

Who would have thought that mediaeval music could inspire enthusiasm in youngsters of today? In the concert in Ely Cathedral given by Mediaeval Babes and the Ely Imps one of the highlights was while the Mediaeval Babes filled Ely Cathedral with their unique exotic sounds, rhythms and movements, some of the Ely Imps listening from the stage behind could not resist breaking into spontaneous enthusiastic knee-tapping in response. There was no doubt that the Mediaeval music presented at this concert was exhilarating and popular for even the youngest of the audience.

Mediaeval Babes not only infuse Mediaeval music with life and vigour, they demonstrate clearly a discerning awareness of the underlying spirit of the ballad-like works. Dressed in tasteful, attractive costumes, often adorned with flowers, these highly accomplished young singers sang in beautifully balanced harmonies, swayed with evocative movements or soothed with captivating sensitivity that immediately seized the audience’s undivided admiration and attention.   

Their songs ranged from the quiet, reflective The Rose, the fanciful, mystical Undrentide, a tale filled with the mysteries of the orchid and spring, and the metallic clattering of Blacksmiths to the uninhibited exhilaration of Sunrise. The purity of the voices and their harmony was particularly noticeable in There is no Rose. Kinderly, a song that reflects on life and death, had considerable dramatic impact and Adult Lullaby, the earliest known lullaby, demonstrated the beauty and clarity of these vocalists who infused an authentic melancholic streak in their exquisitely coloured words. 

Much of the infectious rhythmic drive of their performances was due to the integral contributions of instruments which ranged from the humble descant recorder and the enduring sonority of the mediaeval and modern stringed instruments to the compulsive momentum of turbulent, invigorating drums. 

Ely Imps directed by Paul Trepte added much to the programme. Their mediaeval songs were sung with beautiful phrasing and an attractive clear line. The combined performance of Gaudate and Coventry Carol were undoubtedly notable highlights of a splendid evening.


Review: The Nativity in Holy Trinity Church Haddenham Cambridgeshire

December 16, 2009

The fifth Haddenham Nativity lived up to its established reputation – an excellent show with memorable characters, realistic crowd scenes, great live music, an engaging down-to-earth script, fantastic costumes  and effects – the list is endless.

On early arrival at Holy Trinity Church there was hardly a seat to be found. A background of bird calls, an inspiring set in the east end of the Church and a general atmosphere of buzzing expectation indicated that it was going to be a good night’s entertainment.

This show was more than mere ‘entertainment’ – it was a most appropriate presentation for the Christmas season. Under the directorship of Leslie Stewart, The Nativity, the story of the birth of Jesus, usually reduced to a gathering of excited children wearing tea towels, became a highly professional adult presentation of events that entertained and educated the audience and participants.

Storyteller Artaban (Ian Ashmeade) coordinated scenes in a very friendly and approachable manner. All the characters from the era appeared: the much-troubled Joseph (John Shippey), a reluctant Mary (Eppie la Rue), the evil, powerful King Herod (Bruce Pattern), the zealous prophet John the Baptist (Ronan Sheehy) and the alluring but callous Salome (Luci Maltby), Herod’s future wife. Other strongly portrayed characters included the three Magi: Caspar (Paul Smith), Melchior (Rev. Jim Mullins), Balthazar (Rev. Fiona Brampton), Herod’s watchful sister-in-law Herodias (Diana Lock), the all-knowing adviser to Herod, Marcus (Stuart Findlay), The Shepherds played by Roger Pratt, Nick Law and Roy Stubbings, the ever practical Midwife (Christine Battersby), Mary’s friend Rachel (Joanne Flinders) and the adult Jesus (Daniel Walker). No Nativity would be complete without support from centurions (Chris Prescott and Geoff Maton), Roman soldiers (Andy Foster and David Gander), alternative storytellers (Miranda Pratt and Kate Findlay), suitors/scribes (Moti Meroz and Roy Stubbings) and a host of people forming the choir, the crowds, the girls at the Annunciation, the Shepherd Boys and the Children of Bethlehem.   

Producer/writer Sarah Burton knew how to engage to audience. How could the listeners not empathize with the restless soon-to-be father asking: “Is there anything I can do?”, only to be told by the midwife: “I think you have done enough already, don’t you?”? or the Shepherd moaning that his life is nothing but “Eat, sleep, sheep”.

Musical Director Cathy Priestly and Assistant Musical Director Natasha Cox produced sounds that enhanced the atmosphere positively and appropriately throughout the production. The final jazzy “Alleluia” sent the listeners home with a strong sense of elation that the season creates in even the most resilient of citizens.

Vibrant costumes, effective lighting (Robin Emery Theatre Services) and sound (Roy Truman Sound Services), polished performances, attractive choreography and carefully timed dramatic episodes all made this production unique. Issues that complicate our lives today were made very real: such as the stubborn, reluctant teenager; the bewildered new father or the brutality of a jealous, powerful despot.

Another notable highlight was the inclusion of so many local children. The ‘ah’ factor was never lost, one of the most memorable examples being the exotic entourage accompanying the three Magi. The screams of the Children of Bethlehem when Herod’s men came to kill them sent unforgettable shivers down the spine and the powerful spirited wind, eerie music and light that streamed from above made the visions credible contributions to events. 

This community event, created by the community for the community was only made possible by the generous support of local sponsors, the principal of these being Haddenham Charities, ADeC and Hereward Books. It is events like these that highlight the anomalies of Lottery donation criteria. Because an event is a repeated one, this surely should not deny it further support.  


Review of Ely Choral Society’s Christmas Concert at St. Mary’s Church, Ely: A King is Born.

December 7, 2009

Ely Choral Society is producing some wonderful music these days. Under the baton of Andrew Parnell, the choir has become richer and richer in sound and in production. The Carol Concert this large group of commendable singers gave in St. Mary’s Church Ely introduced the festive season admirably.

The concert opened with a lively gem: Rejoice Lordings by A. Oldham. Immediately it became clear that choir and organist (Jonathan Lilley) were set for an evening of some considerable musical worth. Highlights were the Mendelssohn: When Jesus our Lord , Andrew Parnell’s arrangement of Come, thou Redeemer of the earth and the lullaby The Infant King. These works were particularly well suited to the choir and produced exquisitely sustained musical lines and textures that were treated with rare sensitivity.

The programme contained a variety of other Christmas music such as an ambitious Ave Rex by William Mathias and charming more traditional works:  Joseph and the angel and Jesus Christ the Apple Tree.

The evening was enhanced with an interesting choice of readings interspersed between traditional carols for audience participation.  Dorothy Sayers, one time daughter of the vicar at Bluntisham, wrote a series of controversial plays for the BBC. The selection chosen from these plays added spice to events and reminded the audience of how century-old issues such as the conflict between power and love or of freedom and order and the nature of goodness are relevant to any society at any time. The readers of these excerpts and the soloists for the evening were commendable.

The listeners left the church with the recurring strains of A Somerset Carol echoing in their thoughts, providing strong affirmation that this had, indeed, been a really good evening.

Ely Choral Society’s next concerts:

30th January Peace Child Alpha Omega

27th March J.S. Bach’s St Matthew Passion

Contacts: and

Rosemary Westwell

Review of the King’s School Ely’s event: A Night at the Musicals

December 7, 2009

Review of the King’s School Ely’s event: A Night at the Musicals

The King’s School Ely did it again! Under the experienced directorship of Adella Charlton, children from all parts of the school participated in an evening of sheer delight. A Night at the Musicals provided a huge variety of items demonstrating different styles, approaches and levels of achievement.

The evening opened with an enchanting interpretation of Singing in the Rain by a host of some of the youngest children of the school from Acremont House. Shining rainwear and twirling umbrellas definitely added to ‘ah’ factor.

There were splendid solo items covering shows such as Avenue Q, Grease, The Lion King, Grease, 42nd Street, Sweet Charity,  Bombay Dreams, Chicago Aladdin and Jekyll and Hyde.  The talent of the performers was phenomenal with some of them showing real courage and commitment. Illness is usually rife in schools at this time of the year but these performers left us in no doubt that ‘the show must go on’ and indeed it did ‘go on’ and in splendid style, too. Highlights in the solos included a splendid tap dance: 42nd Street, a moving performance of I’m hopelessly devoted to you and a vibrant performance of All that Jazz from Chicago. Another highlight was undoubtedly Actor in Resident Nick Huntington’s performance of This is the moment from Jekyll and Hyde.

The group items added considerable verve to events and included Do you hear the people sing from Les Miserables by King’s Barbers, a medley from Momma Mia by Etheldreda Girls, Consider Yourself from Oliver and It’s a hard knock life from Annie by King’s Junior School, an unforgettable performance by the staff of Master of the House from Les Miserables, and the full cast singing Can’t stop the beat from Hairspray that ended this great evening in fine form. One of the most memorable items was the King’s Barber’s offering in which minimalist choreography and assured singing created a very moving performance. The undoubted expertise and delightful sounds of the Etheldreda girls was also particularly noticeable.    

Central to the success of the evening was the inspirational guidance of Director Adella Charlton and the high standard of music under the directorship of Peter North. The supportive crew and band were vital ingredients to this wonderful show.

 Profits from sales go to the school’s performing arts charity of the year: The Lantern Dance Theatre Company which is an Ely-based integrated company (

Future events:

The Exam by Andy Hamilton studio 1 the King’s School February 23rd – 25th 2010 7.30 p.m.

Jekyll and Hyde The Musical lyrics Leslie Bricusse, music Frank Wildhorn 16th and 18 – 20th March 2010 7.30 p.m. Hayward Theatre (booking from 22nd February)

Contact:  Adella Charlton Director of Performance Studies

Rosemary Westwell