Archive for March, 2010

Review of Ely Choral Society’s performance of St Matthew Passion in Ely Cathedral on 27th March 2010

March 28, 2010

Ely Cathedral was the ideal place for a splendid seasonal performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. The massive choir, highly competent soloists and excellent instrumentalists under the baton of Andrew Parnell held the audience spell-bound as the severity and seriousness of the message of the Passion was convincingly conveyed.

The performers were Ely Choral Society, Ely Cathedral Girls’ Choir, Brandenburg Baroque Soloists, Jonathan Lilley (organ), Oliver Hancock (organ) and soloists James Atherton (Evangelist), Stephen Alder (Jesus), Helen Groves (soprano), Robert Cross (countertenor), Paul Young (tenor) and Mark Oldfield (baritone).

As the first awesome sounds filled the cathedral the listeners were immediately captivated and involved. The Evangelist in a fine clear voice told the story of the suffering and death of Jesus with sincerity and convincing expressiveness. 

Andrew Parnell inspired the mass of voices and the smooth, reflective chorales moved events along at an engaging and dynamic pace that brought the music alive. There were many dramatic and exciting moments, particularly the choirs’ interpolations of which “Truly, this was the Son of God” was most effective.   

The orchestras consisted of highly accomplished performers who coloured their playing with skilled embellishments, emotive melodies and virtuosic fervour to match the variety of the voices. The viola da gamba was a particularly fitting contributor and the organists gave constantly sensitive support.

The soloists were exceptional. The Evangelist never faltered from his convincing and exquisitely shaped delivery. Ex- Head Chorister of Ely Cathedral, Robert Cross (countertenor), was another phenomenal performer, his strong, wholesomely-coloured tones heightening the extreme passion of his contributions. He matched the soprano extremely well in their duet “Behold, my Saviour now is taken”. The soprano, called in to replace an ailing soloist was no ‘second-best’ performer. Her exquisite sounds, her tonal beauty and her expressive drive were among the best.

The final chorus “We bow our head in tears and sorrow” was a most impressive and potent ending to a very moving and fitting event.    


News and review of John Simpson in Ely on 23rd March 2010

March 24, 2010

John Simpson, BBC World Affairs Editor, is a giant of a man, in stature and reputation. On Tuesday 23rd March 2010 in St. Peter’s Church Ely he spoke candidly of the people and situations he has encountered during his 44 year-career in journalism. Brought up in London and Suffolk he is no stranger to Ely – he has been here twice before. He has reported from over 130 countries and now, he says, he is working harder than ever.

Toppings of Ely arranged his visit to support his new book “Unreliable Sources”, but the length and depth of John’s talk was more that a speech about his book, it was a treatise on the principles of good journalism with flashes of insight into famous politicians and stories of human frailty and humour.  

He reflected on the tensions between an unwillingness to damage your own side’s confidence in war and telling the truth. Journalism is a precarious and difficult job especially after reporters over the century gradually realized that authorities are inclined to tell untruths. John described how lack of trust between the authorities and reporters had brought about censorship of the press, but now, in broadcasting, there has been a change of power from management to the person with the microphone. A report is assembled 5 to 10 minutes before broadcasting so there is no time for censorship. He smiled.

While researching his book John enjoyed reading about reporters of the past and their mistakes. He told of the Daily Mail’s support for Adolf Hitler earlier in the century, a support that quickly changed as the onset of war became inevitable. Stories of key figures of the 20th century rolled out gently as John described their roles in the world of reporting, frankly admitting their strengths and weaknesses. He said he can forgive mistakes but he has no time for journalists who do not go and see what is happening for themselves and who invent material and lie.

There were moments when John showed his lighter side to the packed audience and joked about his fame, describing how he has been mistaken for Mr. Attenborough and his 4 year-old daughter as his grandchild. Ever the discerning word craftsman, he vividly described the time Nelson Mandela came to a Cambridge University for an honorary award and had the dons dancing in the aisles. He mimicked Nelson’s voice perfectly and St Peter’s Church filled with laughter as he quoted Nelson’s excuses for feeling nervous before so many people. Nelson said he was nervous because 1) He was an old-aged pensioner. 2) He was unemployed and 3) He had a very bad criminal record.

In his answers to questions at the end of his talk John revealed his opinion of Barak Obama – charming and intelligent but more of a phrase maker that a strategic thinker. He applauded the reporting of the Daily telegraph and the Guardian (formerly the Manchester Guardian) and described how ownership has much to do with it.  Until a few years ago, the Daily Telegraph was owned by a benign almost absent owner who rigidly refused to get involved in opinions; the editor was free to make his own decisions. The Guardian is run by a trust. In contrast, he described Rupert Murdoch’s influence as deleterious, although John applauded him for rescuing the Times.

John Simpson is indeed an impressive man and a charming, informative speaker. John’s book is now available from Toppings Ely.


Review of Jean Martyn in concert at Witchford Village Hall on Saturday 20th March 2010

March 22, 2010

Ely’s Inner Wheel certainly knows how to present a good show. Jean Martyn, keyboard player extraordinaire, wowed the packed audience in Witchford. This internationally renowned performer commanded her keyboard in sparkling style. Fingers flying, feet dancing on the pedal board and a relaxed, smiling composure had the listeners thoroughly entertained.

She demonstrated just how versatile the instrument is, with sounds ranging from honky tonk piano Mrs. Mills-style, to grand piano, full orchestra, jazz ensemble, military band or brass band – your name it, she played it.

The evening started with a rollicking There’s no Business Like Show business after which a series of highly popular and delightfully arranged numbers filled the hall. Pieces included Misty, the theme from the Warsaw Concerto, Young Man, YMCA, Sweet Caroline, The Nutcracker Suite, Imagine, My Way, In the Mood, Climb Every Mountain, Consider yourself and a host of other familiar works that had our feet tapping and our memories stirred.

She interspersed her numbers with tales of her fascinating career including lessons from Johnny Dankworth, being invited to perform at St. Jame’s Palace for Princess Anne, stepping in at the last moment to perform with James Last and his orchestra, accompanying Dame Vera Lynn, and rubbing shoulders with Rolf Harris and Ester Ranson.

A medley of tradition British numbers included The White Cliffs of Dover, The Dambusters, When you’re Smiling, Down at the old Bull and Bush, Roll out the Barrell and A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square. After a series of popular requests, the evening ended in patriotic fervour, flags waving, the audience in full song with items like Rule Britannia, There’ll always be an England and Land of Hope and Glory.   

Coffee and cakes at interval, assistance from the girl guides and generous and enthusiastic support from the audience, helped make the whole evening a resounding success. Proceeds go towards establishing a haven of peace at the Princess of Wales Hospital in Ely.   

Contacts: tel: 01902 850843

Inner Wheel, Ely:

the secretary, Mary Spinks 01353 663693 e-mail:

Peterborough Theatre Organ Preservation Society

Review of Jekyll and Hyde produced by King’s Company in the Hayward Theatre at the King’s School Ely

March 22, 2010

This review has been commissioned by “Local Secrets” who are willing to allow you to post it on your website, provided you provide a link to “Local Secrets” –

 (Local Secrets is an online guide to eating out, going out and shopping based in Cambridge. It covers Cambridgeshire and Bury St Edmunds. My reviews will go on their website and in their Monday magazine email which they email to 25k readers each week.)

Jekyll and Hyde produced by King’s Company in the Hayward Theatre Ely was no ordinary production. With sophisticated awareness, these fine performers captured exactly the spirit and the age of Dr Jekyll and his obsession with the good and evil of man. Director Nick Huntington inspired this company to present a show that was worthy of considerable acclaim and was a testament to the talent and dedication of its youthful cast.

Jekyll and Hyde (Sam Graham) metamorphosed from a dedicated doctor to the epitome of evil with realism, his acting and singing prowess in no doubt. One of his most unforgettable moments was when he was alone on stage, his two personalities in battle. Sudden changes in timing, stance, gesture, voice, breathing and tone emphasized the contrast of the good doctor and the evil monster within that his experiments with chemicals and his hypocrisy had revealed. The lighting effects here were particularly impressive.

Emma (Lydia Crussell) was a beautiful much troubled fiancée, Lucy (Lexi Hill) a delectable lady of the night and John Utterson (Dan Simmons) a credibly concerned ally. There were a host of other splendid characters that helped to highlight the endemic hypocrisy of their society: Sir Danvers Carew (Lawrence Perkins), Simon Stride (Jack Riordan), Sir Archibald Proops QC (Will Oliver), Lord Savage (Ollie Hill), General Lord Glossop/Spider (Rob Atkinson), Lady Beaconsfield (Isobel Leventhorpe) and The Bishop of Basingstoke (Harry Ixer). Poole (Sally Cheng), Jekyll’s father (Eddy Kronberg), young men (Andrew Payne and Will Chandler),  Bissett the Apothecary (Kirill Rybkin) , Newsboy (Sophie Emms) and Nellie (Sarah Foss), the showgirls and chorus were additional performers that moved the plot along splendidly, their fine clear voices and lithe actions adding spice to dramatic events.   

The music was first rate. The singing was particularly tuneful and moving, the orchestra (directed by Graham Griggs) of professional standing even when out of sight backstage. Some of the most moving numbers included Lost in the darkness, Letting Go, This is the moment, Someone Like You, Once upon a Dream, A New Life and Confrontation.

 Amazing, versatile sets, seamless stage managing, excellent lighting, sound and effects, admirable costumes and moments of captivating choreography all helped to make this mammoth production well worth attending.

Future King’s School events to enjoy include:

Summer Term Showcase Monday 26th Aprilk 2010, 7.30p.m. and Thursday 13th May, 7. p.m. (free)

Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors in the Priory Gardens 5th and 6th July 2010 at 7 p.m.  (free)

Contact: for more information about King’s Company, contact the Director of Performing Studies, Adella Charlton,

About other King’s School Ely events: tel: (01353)653939

Review: Ely Rotary’s Songs from the Shows by Campaign Amateur Theatre in Witchford’s Village Hall

March 14, 2010

Ely Rotary’s Songs from the Shows by Campaign Amateur Theatre in Witchford’s Village Hall on Friday 12th March 2010 was fully booked which is a sign that it was indeed, a very popular evening.

Campaign Amateur Theatre, recovering from recent acclaim from their production of Robin Hood, sang a host of popular songs including There’s no Business like Show business (fromAnnie get your Gun), O What a beautiful morning and Oklahoma (Oklahoma), Somewhere over the rainbow (‘The Wizard of Oz), Climb every mountain (‘The Sound of Music), I wanna be loved by you (‘Good Boy’), This is the moment (‘Jekyll and Hyde’), Tonight (‘West Side Story’), Bring him home (‘Les Miserables’), Cabaret, Tell me on a Sunday, Some Enchanted Evening (‘South Pacific’), Getting to know you (‘The King and I’), You’ll never walk alone (Carousel’), Mack the knife (‘The Threepenny Opera’), The Lady is a Tramp (‘Babes in Arms’), Baby it’s cold outside, Son of a Preacher Man, The Music of the Night (‘The Phantom of the Opera’), I’ve had the Time of my Life, New York New York and I did it my Way.

Among the members of the company were two talented performers from the Cambridge-renowned group ‘Get Back’ and their songs from the 50’s and 60’s were real hits. Accompanied by guitar, Richard and Geoff delighted the audience with their songs. It was almost as if Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers had returned. The songs they performed included It’s so easy to fall in love’, When will I be Loved?, Love Potion Number 9, Let it be me, and Return to Sender.  

There were indeed a highlight of the evening as were the Company’s performances of O What a beautiful morning, Oklahoma and Getting to know you. Lisa Bushell gave wonderful performances of I want to be loved by you, and Tell me on a Sunday and Gaz’s (Graham Brown’s) easy style was so reminiscent of the ‘Rat Pack’ in Sinatra’s time, especially in The Lady is a Tramp and his duet with Lisa: Baby it’s cold outside. Lisa’s I wanna be loved by you was almost better than Marilyn Monroe’s version!       .

A splendid meal rounded the evening off perfectly.

Proceeds from this event go mainly towards one of Rotary’s charities: WaterAid. The company Belu Water Ltd. donated water for the evening.

Forthcoming events include the concert presented by The Inner Wheel Club of Ely..  This event will be held on Saturday 20th March 2010 at the Witchford Playing Field Association Hall, Bedwell Hey Lane, Witchford, Ely CB6 2JN and will feature international star of the concert keyboard Jean Martyn. (Tickets £8 available from Betty Flack (01353) 664533). Proceeds for this concert will go towards providing an area of peace for the Princess of Wales Hospital now that the chapel is out of use.


Review of Ely Consort singing in Ely Cathedral

March 14, 2010

Ely Consort presented an exquisite programme of delightful music in the presbytery of Ely Cathedral on Saturday 13th March 2010.

The setting was evocative: the lighting enhanced by flickering candles, the lovely sounds of the choir enriched by the high cathedral vaults. Under Matthew Rudd’s s expert directorship, the contrasts these voices achieved were magnificent. The singers explored the subtle, meditative components with rare sensitivity, filling the cathedral with powerful climactic fervour as the compositions developed. The soloists were particularly well chosen: Clare Lloyd (soprano), Johnny Herford (baritone), Christine Bullen (alto) and Johnny Herford (tenor) and the organ accompaniment by Jonathan Lilley was, as expected, first-rate.

Works included Ronald Corp’s Missa San Marco, Ave Maria by Bach and Gounod, Urlicht by Mahler, Five Spirituals from a ‘Child of our Time’ by Michael Tippett and Faure’s Requiem – all highly appropriate for the setting.

Ronald Corp’s Missa San Marco was a fine composition that explored the cathedral environment intuitively. His scompositional approach used a more sophisticated but attractive style than the music of 16th -17th century Monteverdi in St. Mark’s Venice (the inspiration for the work). A wholesome tone, long pedal notes, carefully balanced echoing and sustained phrases that allowed the full effect of the acoustics to contribute created a splendid ethereal sound.

Clare Lloyd (soprano) has a magnificent voice and her Ave Maria was positively exquisite. Her beautiful resonance and seamless phrasing above Jonathan Lilley’s serene accompaniment (J.S. Bach’s First Prelude of his 48 Preludes and Fugues) kept the audience spellbound.  

After Johnny Herford’s fine performance of Urlicht by Mahler came one of the highlights of the concert: Michael Tippett’s Five Spirituals from a ‘Child of our Time’: Steal away, Nobody knows, Go down, Moses, By and by and Deep river. Similar to how Bach included familiar episodes in his passions, Tippet introduced these familiar works into his oratorio Child of our Time. However, these were no ordinary arrangements. Tippett’s inspiration driven by sympathy for the victims of the brutal anti-Semitism of his time was clearly reflected in these songs. Poignancy, despair, anguish, elation and excruciating yearning were just some of the heightened emotions these works released. The spirituals were infused with Ely Consort’s and the soloists’ positive influences notably the rising tones of the soprano in Steal Away, a very pleasing texture and exciting contrasts in Nobody knows, emphatic, elongated cries to ‘Let my people go’ in Go down Moses, a dynamic, rhythmic pulse in By and by and rich harmonies and the breath-taking reverence in Deep river.  

The evening culminated with Requiem by Fauré. With rare, constrained sensitivity, these singers reflected the serenity of Faure’s composition exactly. The familiar movements, Introit et Kyrie, Offertoire, Sanctus, Pie Jesu, Agnus Dei, Libera me and In paradisum, were potent entities, the special character of each perfectly maintained. Clare Lloyd’s Pie Jesu and Johnny Herford’s Libera me were outstanding.

As the final notes of In paradisum faded we knew that we had been involved in a unique event that will be very hard to follow.

Future events for Ely Consort include:

On tour in Belgium 29th May to 1st June

Saturday 26th June, St. Andrew’s Church, Sutton, Missa di Gloria Puccini

Saturday 27th November, St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s Church, Chatteris Ceremony of Carols Britten


Review of Northern Lights presented by Ely Sinfonia in Ely Cathedral

March 8, 2010

It is no wonder conductor Steve Bingham is enthusiastic about Ely Sinfonia. Under his baton, this orchestra has continued to grow and develop into one of the finest orchestras in the district. Their concert Northern Lights in Ely Cathedral was a magnificent testament to their expertise.

The programme of Scandinavian composers introduced a variety of compositions.

A performance of Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite, no.1. op.46, opened events easing the listeners into a fascinating musical experience. Morning was highly evocative and delightful woodwind readily called up the sun.  In this piece, the orchestral sections were particularly well balanced. In Death of Ase, Steve’s excellent sense of timing drew every nuance of emotion from the strings who responded perfectly to his lead.  Precision and lightness inspired momentum in Anitra’s Dance, while developing excitement ruled In the Hall of the Mountain King.  

Solo violinist, Matthew Trusler, playing a 1711 violin by Stradivarius, demonstrated a phenomenal appreciation of the intentions of the composer Sibelius in his Violin Concerto op.47.  Matthew made full use of the gorgeous sounds from his highly valuable instrument. With amazing technique every nuance of expression was given full value. Fingers flew over the strings, bow struck with full-bodied vigour, or sailed effortlessly across the whole range of the instrument without a single note lost; this marvellous performer held the listeners spellbound. 

Surprisingly, the concert ended with another meaty work: Nielsen’s Symphony no. 5. Op. 50. Any misgivings about this choice were soon dispelled. The perception of the conductor and the sensitivity and skill of the instrumentalists made this work approachable and fascinating as it explored the battle between light and dark, good and evil, stillness and energy. Nielsen’s courage in giving the snare drum a solo role was a fascinating ingredient.

There is no doubt that this orchestra has earned a position of high regard. You are advised to book early for their forthcoming events which include:

Saturday 13th March, Northern Lights in the Church of St. Peter and Paul Swaffham, Norfolk

Sunday 4th April, accompanying Ely Cathedral choir in Schubert’s Mass in B flat

Saturday 1st May ‘Come and Sing’ HMS Pinafore in Ely Cathedral

Saturday 2nd October Traveller’s Tales Ely Cathedral


Review of Annie Get Your Gun by Soham Village College

March 8, 2010

You are always sure of a good time when you go to a production by Soham Village College. This year was no exception. The production of Annie Get Your Gun filled the stage with colourful characters, vibrant movement and music that lifted the spirits like few other shows.

Annie (played by Naomi Rogers) was a definite star. Her strong mature singing, her feisty acting and her gun-slinging style wowed the audience. The man she adored, Frank Butler (played by Ryan Hutton), was every much her equal, especially in his acting. Buffalo Bill (Josh Robins), with cowboy swagger and spirited banter never let us lose sight of the Wild West theme. Charlie Davenport (Jack Shorney) was a stalwart pivotal character while Sitting Bull (Tommy D Kelly-Hadley) added spice to the plot with his witticisms, his decision to make Annie his daughter and his vague memory of how to scalp someone who would not cooperate.

All good plots have the irritating malicious thorn in everyone’s side and this was Dolly Tate played admirably by Suzie Martin. Another outstanding character was Joseph Wilson (Philip Evans) who was a very realistic, unyielding hotelier. Pawnee Bill (Nat Whittington) and the four ragamuffin sisters (Chloe Jones, Annabelle Davis, Emily Smith and Marianne Carvalho) helped liven up events. The four sisters certainly gelled together well in a highly entertaining series of responses to events – a vital part of the production. Other notable enhancers were the fine dancers, the delightful choreography (by Debbie Marks), the strong chorus and the host of other characters including Tumblers and Indians. Costumes and effects were magnificent as was the orchestra led by Stephen Kenna on keyboard.

Songs with perennial appeal included Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly, The Girl that I Marry, You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun, There’s no Business Like Show Business, They Say It’s Wonderful and Anything You Can Do . These numbers lifted the show into heights usually associated with the finest of adult performances. 

The production team (Stephen Kenna, David Tickner and Angela Bocking) should be well pleased with such a splendid show.


review of pianist Patrick Hemmerlé in Ely

March 5, 2010

This is review of a piano recital given by Patrick Hemmerlé in the Recital Hall the Gibson Music Hall Ely for the King’s School Ely Concert Society series.

The review has been commissioned by “Local Secrets” who are willing to allow you to post it on your website, provided you link to “Local Secrets” –

 (Local Secrets is an online guide to eating out, going out and shopping based in Cambridge. It covers Cambridgeshire and Bury St Edmunds. Some of my reviews will be commissioned to go on their website and in their Monday magazine email which they email to 25k readers each week.)

Review : Piano recital Patrick Hemmerlé’s Ely

The King’s School Ely Concert Society has brought many fine musicians to Ely and Patrick Hemmerlé must be one of the finest. This phenomenal pianist received his training in France and his understanding and appreciation of French piano music is breath-taking. Many of the works were popular items that have been played at concerts many times, but Patrick outshone any performances I have heard.

 The four ballades by Chopin demonstrated an outstanding technique and an acute awareness of the internal workings of the musical structure and its expressive demands. His whole demeanour reflected a deep intellectual affinity for the composer’s intentions and as his fingers delicately outlined Chopin’s appealing melodies or flew across the keyboard with pinpointed alacrity, he reached heights of expression rarely heard before.

The remainder of the programme featured works by Fauré, Debussy, Chabrier and the lesser known Roger-Ducasse and Emmanuel.   Whether the piece demanded clearly articulated melodic strains, rapid virtuosic spills or reflective nuance, Patrick was fully immersed in delivering these with precision, sensitivity and genuine commitment.

Patrick’s explanation and demonstration of the musical developments within the 2nd Barcarolle in G flat Major by Jean Roger-Ducasse and the 6th Sonatine by Maurice Emmanuel brought these works alive.  He played Debussy’s L’Ilse Joyeuse in A major with assured aplomb, his strong, no-nonsense approach filling the sounds with fresh vitality and a direct musicality that never lost the fluidity and expressive qualities of this joyful composition. The last group of works by Chabrier lightened the spirit and featured a phenomenal variety of methods of articulation. Patrick’s utter appreciation of the music he played was never in any doubt.

This wonderful concert ended with two delightful encores of works by Erik Satie (the unforgettable Gymnopédie 1) and Jacques Ibert. 

Future events include:

  • Tuesday 16th and Thursday 18th to Saturday 20th March Jekyll and Hyde in the Hayward Theatre 7.30 p.m.
  • Saturday 27th March Cathedral Girls’ Choir sings in Bach’s St Matthew Passion with Ely Choral Society in Ely Cathedral 7.30 p.m.
  • Friday 7th May (KSE Concert Society): David Campbell, Jocelyn Howell, Jose Requena (clarinets), John Flinders (piano) in the Recital Hall 7.30 p.m.
  • Friday 7th May (KSE Concert Society): Jadran Duncumb (guitar) and Emil Duncumb (piano) in the Recital Hall 7.30 p.m.



review of an evening with writer Jim Kelly

March 5, 2010

Location, location, location – the importance of place is ever present, particularly in the novels of Ely-based writer Jim Kelly. He, above all, captures the emotions of the sparse Fen environment or the bleak expanses of Norfolk.  Toppings bookstore scored yet again when they enticed this renowned local author to share his thoughts with a host ever-increasing admirers.

 In his talk at St. Mary’s Church, Ely, Jim shared some of the pages of his new novel Death Watch in which Shaw and Valentine return to solve the mysteries of a disappearance and death years apart. 

He intrigued us with informative explanations of his inspiration and motivation. He spoke of his childhood observations of his father, a detective chief superintendent in Scotland Yard. He described a homely scene when his family watched TV shows like Gideon’s Way.  His father was often frustrated with the errors and would cry: “That’s right, put your fingerprints everywhere!”   

Jim introduced the theory that murders are, more often than not, committed by people living in end of terraced houses. Death Watch is set in a terraced house in King’s Lynn and his powers of description create a realistic and ghostly town.

Jim gave an informed and intriguing description of the development of crime writing and the source of much of his and other crime writers’ ideas. Many crime novelists, he said, focus on the plan of houses, be they tiny or grand and Jim’s previous experience as a geographer influences his particular interest in place. In Death Watch he tries to combine a sense of the intimacy of murder in the home and the wider tensions of a street community responding to the trauma of such an event.  

While his books are readily available on audio CDs, there have been discussions of adaptations of his books for TV, but like a solar eclipse, he said, everything has to be exactly in place at the right time for this to come into effect. We watch this space in hope.

More events planned by Toppings include:

Simon Carnell speaking on Thursday 18th March 7.15 for 7.30 at Topping’s Bookshop Ely

John Simpson speaking on Tuesday 23rd March at St. Mary’s Church Ely