Review Pre-tour Concert The Choir of Ely Cathedral on Saturday 16th October 2010 in Ely Cathedral

Paul Trepte, Jonathan Lilley and The Choir of Ely Cathedral are a phenomenal combination and any performance they offer is undoubtedly first-class. Their pre-tour concert was no exception.

The sheer beauty of the ‘English’ sound, the tonal potency and the expressive and rhythmic agility of this amazing group of performers will no doubt wow the audiences in Spain.    

Extra chairs had to be brought in for the listeners who knew they were about to be hear music of the highest quality.

The event opened with what Paul called their ‘party piece’: ‘The heavens are telling’ by Haydn.    Dressed in red, the choir stood in the choir stalls, with the candles flickering and Ely Cathedral’s unique atmosphere shrouding them in support. The Cathedral vaults resounded with the glorious sounds of choir and organ as this wonderful concert began.

Swiftly moving to the magnificent altar at the east end of the Cathedral, the choir sang the first unaccompanied piece: ‘Tomorrow shall be my dancing day’ by Holst in which the voices fully explored the variety of expression in the different verses.

Long phrases and sustained beauty of Byrd’s ‘Prevent us O Lord’ provided notable contrast. As the choir memebers moved back to the stalls, Jonathan Lilley, organist, played a delightful number: ‘A fancy’ by Harris. It was indeed a ‘fancy, with light-hearted forays and dialogues that tickled the senses.

Beethoven’s ‘Hallelujah (The Mount of Olives)’ brought matters into a more serious, deep-seated frame of mind while the following unaccompanied ‘Alleluia psallat’  brought us into the twentieth century with its delicious discords, challenging rhythms and exciting effects.

The more traditional religious music of Stanford featured twice in this concert and both pieces (‘Justorum animae’ and ‘Beati quorum via’) were a testament to Paul’s conducting prowess as the sustained beauty of Stanford’s phrases were fully explored.

The boy choristers gave a splendid performance of Marcello’s ‘Give ear unto me’ and the full choir conveyed the forthrightness and musical vigor of ‘Hymn to the Trinity’ by Ely resident and Organist Emeritus to Ely Cathedral, Arthur Wills. The choir exemplified the attractiveness of John Rutter’s ‘O clap you hands’ by Cambridge-based John Rutter.

However, for me, the real highlights were the choir’s performance of Paul’s composition ‘The Gateway of heaven’ and Bruckner’s ‘Locus iste’ and Jonathan’s organ delight ‘Salamanca’ by Bovet. ’The Gateway of Heaven’ was fresh, intriguing and permeated with very agreeable and colourful harmonies. The performance of the very popular ‘Locus iste’ under Paul’s influence was brought to life by his indisputable attention to detail and expressive precision without losing any of the emotional impact. In ‘Salamanca’ by Guy Bovet Jonathan had the audience grinning with his exploitation of the extremes of witty expression within this amazing piece. Stops producing sounds reminiscent of penny whistles, beating drums, fog horns and demonic fairground music were the order of the day in a composition that was no easy feat to play. It was also a good choice for the tour as Bovet taught at Salamanca University in Spain.

Spain should be very impressed with these fantastic musicians.

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