Archive for July, 2010

Review: Witchford Voices in St. Andrew’s Church Witchford Tuesday 20th July 2010

July 23, 2010

Witchford Voices raised the roof of St. Andrew’s Church Witchford for both of their evening performances on July 19th and 20th 2010. Their popularity knows no bounds. From a village with very few singers, Witchford has fast become a centre for singing enthusiasts county wide, thanks to the hard work of Keith Gallois, Naomi D’Cunha and Helen Williamson (amongst others).

Naomi knew her music, and supported by knowledgeable colleagues produced a programme of great songs. Often singing unaccompanied or to recorded accompaniment, the singers knew their music. Not a sheet of paper was in sight – all singers’ eyes were glued to their conductor whose control and inspiration were impressive.

The 90-or-so-strong choir – with 50 of the members performing for this concert – sang with a vibrant enthusiasm that was unforgettable. The packed audience was easily caught up in this wonderful group’s exuberance.

 The opening item: ‘One Vision’, attracted our attention immediately with its tremendous impact. Some of the choir’s potential became apparent in the gentler phrases of ‘May it be’, while we were transported to other more spiky cultures with captivating rhythms in the following three Gospel-like melodic incantations. 

A variety of people interspersed the singing with snippets of information that kept us entertained and informed. Their contributions were just right – not too long and not too short and with just the information we wanted to know.     

The familiar and popular ‘Hallelujah’ and ‘Don’t stop believin’ led us to the interval when a free drink was ready and waiting.

‘Adiemus’ by Karl Jenkins, ‘Down by the River to Pray’, ‘Man in the Mirror’, ‘Run’, and ‘Lean on Me’ followed and made the evening complete. In these pieces particularly, the balance and rhythmic precision of this huge choir were phenomenal. One of the highlights was ‘Run’ which began with a gorgeous rich tone in the altos and the men’s tone in ‘Down by the River we Pray’ was also impressive. 

The evening was a delightfully warm and summery and super management meant that everything went off like a dream. Our village church looked resplendent enhanced with a background of colourful lighting produced by Dee Ireland.

Cleverly arranged part singing, rhythmic zeal and excitement, and the ability to convey the sheer joy of participating in this momentous event made the evening a roaring success.  You are advised to book early for their Christmas events:

Sunday 5th December Evening Christmas Concert, St Andrew’s Church, Witchford in aid of Marie Curie

Friday 10th December Evening Christmas Concert, St. Mary’s Church. Ely in aid of Marie Curie


Choir manager


Membership secretary/treasurer

Musical Director Naomi D’Cunha

Review: Touchable Dreams featuring Steve Bingham and Jeremy Harmer

July 19, 2010

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. 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. It will be interesting to see if we have the opportunity to hear Steve perform in this way in concerts in Cambridgeshire soon.

Review of Viva Youth Theatre’s production of Godspell

July 18, 2010

Everybody knows about the Edinburgh Fringe but not everybody knows about Soham’s Viva Youth Theatre (yet). However, countrywide, even worldwide, fame is surely not long in coming for this remarkable company. Already Viva Youth Theatre has been given one of the choicest venues to perform ‘Godspell’ at the Edinburgh Fringe from 7-14th August this year and rightly so, too.

This amazing group is definitely ready to perform in the prestigious ‘C Plaza in George Square. Viva Youth Theatre shared their production of ‘Godspell’ with packed audiences of local enthusiasts at the Brook in Soham last week.

It was fantastic! There is no other word to describe it. The hall pulsated with a constant kaleidoscope of vibrant activity and sound. A mass of vivid and imaginative movements, singing of the highest quality, and convincing acting mesmerized the audience. The whole range of emotions was explored, from exuberant joy to the depths of despair. Nothing was left untouched. One moment we were laughing at the antics of a bunch of mischievous school children, the next we were feeling the pain of betrayal and a tortuous death. One moment we had to stop ourselves from leaping onto the stage and joining in the party of the century, the next we were frozen in time as their beautiful voices soothed the spirit in moments of deep reflection.

Once the haunting strains of ‘Prepare ye the Way of the Lord’ announced a unique and uninhibited telling of the story of Jesus, we were hooked. Even though Ralph Watts who played Jesus was in his teens, he had all the authority, charisma and power the role demanded. His voice was golden, focused and expressive. Judas, played by Ashley Gilmour, and the other main characters and soloists held us in suspense as they wowed us with their charming singing, their amazing stage presence and their believable characterizations. The rest of this fine Fringe Company and Principals included Lee Sherwood, Ryan Hutton, Ben Clark, Shellie Baigent, Jessica Theobold, Naomi Rogers, Lucy Bell, Ellie Gillett, Susannah Martin, Abby Deem, Beth Henderson, Robyn Howe, Karina Locke, Molly Shaw and Jenny Blane.

In the lighter moments, especially in the telling of the parables, a sense of comedy was never lost. We were kept laughing at the corny jokes, the playful frolics and creative dramatization as the company gave zing to the familiar Bible stories. No image was too difficult for these amazing performers. Grunting pigs, baaing sheep, argumentative goats, hissing snakes, jostling angels, menacing demons, the wailing wall, a house, a cheeseboard, a puppet show, ‘Hello Mums’ to the audience, a city wall, Groucho Marx, heart throbs, beat box, tap dance, ballet, the can can, and playing the flute (for real) amongst others – no effect was spared.

And yet amongst all the lively horseplay, the contentious behaviour of human kind identified by Jesus was never forgotten. Even the issue of group persecution reared its head from time to time, most poignantly in the parable of the sowing of the seeds – given to a character who lisped her story. Their imaginations had no bounds.

This outstanding production was wonderfully choreographed and the Ensemble was indeed a vibrant and important part of events.

The directors Dan Shumann and David Tickner and assistant Joshua Schumann and Choreographer Debbie Marks and her assistant Emily Norman showed tremendous skill in inspiring the company to exploit their natural youthful exuberance, creative imaginations and rhythmical agility to develop amazing group dynamics that swiftly interwove with dazzling credibility. We were almost breathless from watching.

A no holds barred band of highly competent musicians and singing of the highest quality gave credit to the Musical Director Angela Bocking and her assistants, Simon Thompson (bass) and Mark Ellis (guitar). Melody Bell supported with exceptional keyboard dexterity whole Chris Pepper kept the rhythm throbbing on drums.

An amazing array of props, the meeting of huge technical demands of sound and staging and the provision of costumes that combined the 60’s flower power with today’s fashions were also essential contributions to this amazing production. Definitely the best show

I have seen in years! Viva Viva!

Review Cambridge Philharmonic Society Ely Cathedral Saturday 10th July 2010

July 11, 2010

 This review is for “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.)

Cambridgeshire is very rightly known as a centre of some of the most talented musicians worldwide. Steve Bingham, leader of Cambridge Philharmonic, is undoubtedly one of these and I last saw him performing with Jeremy Harmer at a conference of IATEFL (the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language) in Harrogate early this year. I was very pleased to see that both of them were engaged to perform in this concert: Jeremy as a viola player. Their presence indicated that the evening was going to be a success.

And indeed it was. Under the baton of Timothy Redmond, the orchestra and choir were magnificent.   In the Overture I Vespri Siciliani by Giuseppe Verdi, Timothy’s charismatic and intuitive control brought the work to life, every change of mood and thrilling development seamlessly aroused.   

In the ever-popular Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis by Vaughan William the strings immediately created an intense, awe-inspiring atmosphere. They gelled superbly with impressive tonal strength and agility. The three groups of instrumentalists evoked a mesmerizing internal tension as they revelled in the rich harmonies, potent elongated phrases and creative modulations.

Verdi’s operatic style was given good measure in his Stabat Mater and Te Deum and his emotional response to the texts was fully explored. Choir and orchestra highlighted significant words while moving as one between contrasting moments that ranged from dramatic climax or angelic reflection to reverend calm.  

The concert ended with more from the unique style of Ralph Vaughan Williams in his Dona Nobis Pacem. His portrayal of the worst that war brings was well reflected by these highly accomplished performers and the renowned soprano, Joan Rodgers, with her bell-like and beautiful tones, provided a central focus of the work with her moving call to ‘grant us peace’.

Baritone, Roderick Williams, added a sense of alarm and potency to John Bright’s words of the Angel of Death while Roderick’s full strong voice gave conviction to the exhortation to ‘fear not’ and ‘be strong’.

One of the most effective episodes in this work was the sinister, repetitive drum call in the Dirge for Two Veterans (words by Walt Whitman). With effective exploration of a variety of textures by chorus and orchestra, this was one of the most spine-chilling moments of this wonderful evening.


Review of The Dream of Gerontius performed by the Huntingdonshire Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra and St Ives Choral Society in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 26th June 2010

July 8, 2010

Ely Cathedral was the ideal venue for Hunts Phil and St. Ives Choral Society to perform Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius: an intense and vibrant exploration of the thoughts and process of a dying man. Under the baton of Musical Director Adrian Brown this impressively large group of musicians filled the cathedral with thought-provoking and moving sounds.

Neil Jenkins, once first tenor for the famous King’s Singers when he was a Choral Scholar at King’s College Cambridge, was an excellent choice for the role of the tormented Gerontius. His powerful voice coloured the words with great strength and passion while his diction was impeccable – every word rang clear, every emotional tinge given full value.

Edward Grint, also a previous choral scholar at King’s College Cambridge, gave the priest’s role power and conviction and his pleading tones as the Angel of Agony hinted appropriately the approaching final resolution.    

The choirs produced just the right balanced texture that conveyed the gentle reverence, demonic cynicism, climactic excitement or graceful acceptance that the words of Cardinal Newman’s poem demanded. Moments of Wagnerian super-charged drama were given full measure. The Choir of Angelicals was angelic indeed, sweetening deliciously the gently interwoven harmonies in the first Praise to the Holiest which transformed into a wonderful dramatic climax in its final version. 

Huntingdonshire Philharmonic orchestra established the worthiness of the performance at the outset.  The instrumentalists caught the emotional drive and cohesive magnetism of Elgar’s unusual Wagnerian-like sounds as they flowed continuously in an ever-developing, emotionally-charged manner. There were no parcelled arias and recitatives here. The soothing strings were especially effective at the beginning of Part 2 after the interval and brass, woodwind and flamboyant percussion coloured events magnificently.

Janet Shell was a magnificent Angel, her fine voice rising to the heights of the cathedral vaults, in soothing smoothly-shapely phrases.

This was indeed a momentous occasion.  

Forthcoming events by St Ives Choral Society include:

Annual Family Christmas Concert Saturday 18th December 2010

Handel: Dixit Dominus and Dettingen Te Deum Saturday 5th February 2011

Karl Jenkins Requiem Saturday 14th May 2011

Britten St Nicholas and Purcell Ode for St. Cecelia’s Day 2011

Contact St Ives Choral Society email:

Hunts Phil contact tel: 01487 824081

Review of The King’s School Ely Concert Society’s Guitar and Piano featuring Jadran and Emil Duncumb

July 8, 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.)

Talented brothers, Jadran and Emil Duncumb, entertained an enthusiastic audience in the Hayward Theatre Ely with a fascinating programme of music for guitar and piano. At first, the guitar and piano seemed unlikely companions, but these two fine musicians demonstrated how well these instruments can be combined. With intuitive understanding, these young Norwegians synchronized perfectly. No matter how delicate or subtle, how exotic or rhythmically exciting, or how swift the changes of expression, these two always played as one – it was impossible to spot the seams.    

The opening 2 Rondos op. 68 by Mauro Giuliani were positively charming. The first Rondo was  focused, precise and detailed, never losing sight of the allure of the music. The second more melancholic Rondo captured the attention with its exquisite timing.

Emil played Beethoven’s piano sonata no. 6 in F major with amazing dexterity, heightening the effect with an astute sense of touch and shaping Beethoven’s changeable dynamics perfectly.

Fantasia by Castelbuovo-Tedesco gelled piano and guitar together in moments of sheer atmospheric delight. This Debussy-like composition gave the piano gorgeous schmaltzy chords and moments of percussive novelty in the guitar. Together, the musicians explored the effects to the full. After moments of jagged excitement enlivened matters the piece finally eased towards its magical finish.

After interval, Jadran played Variations on a Theme by Scriabin written by Alexandre Tansman. Jadran always kept the outline of the theme clear as he led us through a fascinating array of variations from the most subtle to the most complex.

A Diabelli sonata for piano and guitar was a most suitable ending to the evening reminding us of Beethoven’s era of approachable music that will always have a place in the concert repertoire. More sensitive interplay between these two highly accomplished performers in this piece brought the evening to a delightful close.

Forthcoming events for the King’s School Ely include:

King’s Senior School Musicians performing in the Recital Hall at 6 p.m. on Friday 3rd July

An open-air production of The Comedy of Errors by Shakespeare in the Arts Courtyard at 7 p.m.

And an Afternoon Masterclass and Evening Recital with the Cann Twins on Friday 24th September.