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

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

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