Archive for April, 2010

Review of Joanne Harris at St. Etheldreda’s Church in Ely 29th April 2010

April 30, 2010

The mention of “Chocolat” is usually enough to conjure up an image of Joanne Harris, an author with a gift for getting inside the heads of real people, giving credence to their varied whims and undeniable desires and exploring in depth, their complex communities.

When she first stepped forward to introduce herself to the packed church of St Etheldreda’s Church in Ely, she was every bit the colourful and perceptive person expected. With a charming demeanor, Joanne captivated the audience as she shared her special view on life and the way people tick in communities that are the same worldwide. She read from her latest novel “Blueeyedboy”,  her honeyed tones bringing her sensitive and luxurious prose to life. We could relate exactly with characters that were completely different to ourselves and empathize with their feelings as they battled to understand and cope with the world around them and to make their mark within their tiny environments.

Joanne has written a string of varied novels including “Runemarks”, “Gentlemen and Players”, “The French market”, “Five Quarters of the Orange” and “Blackberry Wine”. Of these she especially enjoyed writing “Gentlemen and Players” which gives insight into the world of teaching incorporating echoes from her own experience as a young teacher in a public school. She admitted that “Five Quarters of the Orange” was her happiest novel.

She writes two types of book – those written on sunny days and the rest of the time those written on gloomy, rainy days. Hers is not the disciplined, militant approach. She starts writing and lets the characters lead her as the book gradually develops by process of accumulation. Hers is not the linear approach but one that explores characters in-depth often written in the first person divulging intimate and individual perspectives.  

Joanne’s interest in synesthesia helped create “Blueeyedboy”. Synesthesia is a condition in which more than one sense is evoked with different stimuli. Numbers, the days of the week or any stimuli can trigger specifically related colours, smells or personalities. Her own sensitivity and preference for bright colours and light is reflected in her writing.

As this slim, bright, honest, amusing and colourful author shared her thoughts with us, we were definitely wooed and it became clear from listening to her vibrant prose that this famous author definitely warrants the acclaim she has acquired.


Review of An Evening of Classical European and Russian Music by Irina Tutt (Soprano) at St. Andrew’s Church, Witchford, Ely on Saturday 17th April 2010

April 29, 2010

Irina Tutt’s return to Witchford was a resounding success. The church was packed and you could feel the pride the villagers felt. Irina, a Russian soprano of note trained at the Conservatoire in St. Petersburg, married into the Tutt family in the village, and has been warmly welcomed ever since. In this generous concert she gave her time freely and wowed the audience with her amazingly powerful and rich voice.

Dr Stepehn Ades put the church organ through its paces, accompanying Irina and performing solos with skill and assurance and Dr Stephen Taylor introduced each item providing intriguing background information to the artists and pieces.

The programme included a variety of works by Bach, Handel, Purcell Mozart, Schubert, Gounod, Widor and a number of Russian composers. 

The solos Irina sang were powerfully delivered, Irina’s rich voice giving the songs extra emotion and depth. One of the highlights for me was her performance of “Dido’s Lament” by Purcell. I have heard this lovely piece sung many times, but Irina’s interpretation was special. While Stephen Ades played the recurring bass line with steady assurance, Irina reinforced the familiar pleas of the singer with a spine-chilling and highly expressive colouring. Her words “Remember me” were not the plaintive cry I am used to hearing; these words were sung with strength and passion that demanded attention. This was indeed a woman suffering.

Another highlight was “Ave Maria” by Schubert and her opening strains were the most serene I have heard. Of the Russian songs, the “Vocalise No 14” by Zavalishina was the most impressive with an amazing expressive potency infusing the phrases.

Of the organ works played by Dr Stephen Ades, Widor’s Toccata from his 5th Symphony was particularly impressive. As he told me after the performance, this work needs to be approached differently according to the nature of the organ. He showed great sensitivity to the organ in St. Andrew’s and he gave this piece, so often played at the end of weddings, rare detail, clarity, expressive variety, space and strength. This organist is no ordinary performer and his technical prowess in Mushel’s “Toccata” was also very much in evidence.   

The concert ended with two fine encores: “Danny Boy”, that familiar folk-like song expressing a father’s concern for his son away at war and a very moving performance of Gershwin’s “The Man I Love”.

This was a wonderful evening, all the better for the fine team who organized the event so well. Let us hope that Irina will return to sing again soon.

Proceeds will be shared between the Children’s Cancer Ward C2 Addenbrooke’s Hospital and St Andrew’s Church Extension Fund.

Contacts: (St. Andrew’s Church)

Review City of Ely Community College’s production of Bugsy Malone on the 30th March 2010.

April 29, 2010

The City of Ely Community College chose a fine musical for their show held at the Community College.  Bugsy Malone gave them every opportunity to display the talent of these young performers.

The leads in this production were outstanding. Bugsy Malone (Duncan Earlam) swaggered confidently about the stage, drawing us inextricably into his world of dangerous living. His charisma, timing and clear delivery helped create a credible and winning personality. Blousy Brown (Scarlet East) matched Duncan’s performance particularly well. Her fine singing, humorous characterization and delightful moments of dramatic vigour added spice to the plot.

Fat Sam (Jamie Smith) blustered eloquently as he tried to overcome his mounting troubles and complained bitterly about the noises made by Knuckles (Pawel Kalasa). Tallulah (Chloe Van Putten) made an attractive girl friend while Dandy Dan (Stephen Perry) was a splendid adversary, his fine demeanour setting him apart.

A plethora of ‘stiffs’, splurge guns, custard pies and ‘scraps’ moved the plot along well – a testament to the expertise of the Director Lloyd Popp, the dedication and hard work of the whole cast and the efficiency of stage props. 

Some of the most notable highlights also included rousing choruses especially the final You Give a Little Love, moving solos especially Tomorrow sung by Fizzy (Lauren Harrington), some excellent dancing and choreography (thanks to the Artistic Director Ceris Eveleigh), delightful costumes and a resourceful stage set.   

This was a splendid evening’s entertainment.


Review of ‘Never Forget’ by Stage Chance in Beechurst Hall Soham on 22nd April 2010

April 23, 2010

It is a tremendous privilege to be invited to attend one of the best parties in town and this is what it felt like to be in the audience of Stage Chance’s ‘Never Forget’. The stage was packed with vibrant, attractive and talented youth – all mostly under 18 – who sang, danced and acted their hearts out. It was impossible not to be moved by this wonderful show and when the whole cast sang ‘Never forget’ at the end of the evening, tears were not only appearing in the performers’ eyes as those who were leaving sang their goodbyes.

Top notch acts included items from ‘Annie’, ‘42nd Street’, ‘Fame’, ‘Wicked’, ’Grease’, ‘West Side Story’, ‘Hairspray’, ’Priscilla Queen of the Desert’, ‘Sister Act’, ‘Phantom of the Opera’ and ‘Fosse’ and there was a host of popular pieces from the past: ‘Don’t stop believing’, ‘Over the Rainbow’, ‘Hallelujah’, ‘9-5’, ‘Ain’t no mountain high enough’ and ‘Proud Mary’.

It is hard to single out the performers that shone the most, for they were all, very, very good. However, for me the highlights were songs that really tugged the heartstrings sung by Lucy Bell (‘Out here on my own’) and Rebecca Storey (‘I’m not that girl’). Robyn Howe’s (‘Over the Rainbow’) was especially easy to the ear.

The Capetown Crew provided a startling and captivating surprise as they stepped, clapped and sang songs from Africa with native-like assurance.

The choreography by Katherine Hickmott was positively dazzling and followed the musical expression very effectively. It was a testament to Daniel Bell’s amazing direction that masses of participants dashed swiftly on and off stage, whirling and twirling as one or shaping themselves into highly attractive tableaux.

Pictures flashed on a screen at the back of the stage and tributes interspersed the performances so that we could share the memories of this amazing cast. Even Morecombe and Wise had a place (thanks to Ryan Hutton and Jack Shorney). The grace of Hannah Pyrah dancing ‘Songbird’ was unmistakable and the charming performers dancing the ‘Sailor’s Hornpipe’ revived many a fond memory.

The band was first rate and consisted of Melody Bell (keyboard), Tim Taberner (electric guitar), Mark Bell (saxophone), Tom Cross (percussion), Tom Claringbold (bass guitar) and Mark Oreilly (trumpet). It is at this point that one may notice that the Bell family is indeed a highly talented lot. A committed team of supporters, costumes. lighting, sound and minimal scenery were also essential ingredients in this fantastic show.

Their next production, ‘Fame’ on Friday 3rd and Saturday 4th September 2010 is a must.


review Steve Bingham and Jeremy Harmer

April 17, 2010

Review: Touchable Dreams featuring Steve Bingham and Jeremy Harmer

Steve Bingham, renowned violinist and conductor in the Cambridgeshire area, was spotted taking part in the International Conference of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language in Harrogate in the first week of April this year (2010). Celebrated author and wordsmith, Jeremy Harmer joined Steve and together they created an intriguing presentation of Touchable Dreams: words and music that synthesized perfectly to reflect love in its many and divers forms. 

Steve played his classical violin with phenomenal skill – as we have admired him do so many times before. But in addition to this, he extended his repertoire to include the sounds of an electric violin and accompanying electronic bass line. Evocative rhythms and familiar recurring phrases that were recorded live created an attractive complement as the music progressed. It was a fascinating combination and reminiscences of known composers including Steve himself, JSBach, Pachelbel, Piazzolla, and even the Beatles, wove a varied and intriguing fabric.  

With perceptive dramatic awareness, Jeremy shaped the words meaningfully. Excerpts from WHAuden, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Carol Ann Duffy, Ted Hughes, William Shakespeare and the Beatles were reborn in this captivating presentation.

The variety of sounds and texts, sensitive timing and an uncanny empathy between the performers made this intriguing show a new and highly effective genre that held the packed audience spellbound.  We will be able to hear Steve perform in this way in a concert in Cambridgeshire in September.