Review Cambridge Philharmonic Society Ely Cathedral Saturday 10th July 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.


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