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



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