Archive for November, 2010

Review of Ely Consort’s ‘A Ceremony of Carols’ on Saturday 27th November 2010 at The Parish Church, Chatteris

November 28, 2010

There is something quintessentially magnetic about Benjamin Britten’s work ‘A Ceremony of Carols’. Used to hearing it sung by boy trebles, the purity of the harmonies and the charismatic lines of Britten’s style draw me to it immediately. When I noticed that Ely Consort were presenting this work, albeit in a four-part arrangement, I had to hear it.  As the choir began moving up the aisle of the Parish Church in Chatteris, singing the opening ‘Procession’, I was transfixed.

Harpist Cecilia Sultana de Maria struck the first notes of ‘Wolcum Yole’ and the precision of the performers, their confident beginnings and effective contrasts were captivating.   

Under the directorship of Matthew Rudd, this excellent choir produced wholesome sustained lines and moments of great beauty and expressive splendour, especially in the ‘Procession’ and ‘Recession’, ‘There is no Rose’, ‘That yongë child’ and ‘Balulalow’. Choir and harp exuded joy in ’As dew in Aprille’, we were well reminded of the freezing night outside by ‘Freezing Winter Night’, and the emphatic ‘Deo Gracias’ certainly rang true. 

This was a special performance and the evening was made all the more enjoyable for the contribution by members of the choir as soloists and at one stage, one of them even turned conductor. The fine soloists included Miriam Brown (soprano), Lydia Hill (soprano), Martin Kenward (tenor), Jacqueline Lyons (soprano), Christine Bullen (soprano), Clare Hambling (soprano), Helen West (soprano) and Peter Lancaster (tenor). Martin Kenward’s contribution in ‘Ave Maria’ by Franz Schubert was especially impressive and no doubt somewhat influenced by the fact that the work has been performed at Matthew’s wedding in Ely Cathedral earlier in the year. This work was conducted by Martin Gent while Matthew took his place amongst the choir.

Choir and harp under the baton of Matthew presented a number of high quality items in the remainder of the concert. These included excellent performances of ‘Hodie Christus natus est’ by Jan Sweelinck, ‘O magnum mysterium’ by Tomás Luis de Victoria, ‘Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen’ arr. Michael Praetorius and Donald Cashmore,  ‘I am the day’ by Jonathan Dove, ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ by Stephen Darlington and ‘Hodie Christus natus est’ by Francis Poulenc

Throughout the evening, Cecilia Sultana de Maria Harp made her harp a vital and integral part of the concert. Her precise articulation, the multi-dimensional fabrics she created and her beauty and charm captured the audience. Her solos ‘Fantasy’ by Louis Spohr, and ‘Impromptu-Caprice by Gabriel Pierné were highlights of the evening.

The sizeable audience warmed to these wonderful musicians and the encores by harp and choir were well deserved.

Forthcoming events:

Saturday 26th March 2011 Ely Cathedral Brahms’ Requiem

Saturday 25th June 2011 Sutton, St. Andrew’s Church, with Cambridge Brass Walton’s Coronation Te Deum


Review of The King’s School Ely’s 19th Old Dispensary Concert Friday 19th November in the Hayward Theatre Ely

November 21, 2010

An amazing array of highly talented musicians performed at the King’s School Ely’s 19th Old Dispensary Concert in the Hayward Theatre on Friday. Over the years the school has managed to raise in the region of £20,000 to keep this much needed community centre open and the standard of entertainment they have provided has been exceptional. Fridays’ event was one of the finest.  

Director Ian Sutcliffe has worked wonders. The concert opened with a very expressive performance of ‘Danse Macabre’ by Saint-Saens by the Senior Orchestra. The String Orchestra directed by Helen Medlock followed with a lively ‘Badinerie’ by JS Bach and then it was the turn of the famed King’s Barbers and Ely Cathedral Boy Choristers. Singing with their usual sonorous perfection, they offered some more modern items in the popular vein:  ‘Angels’ (Robbie Williams and G Chambers), and ‘Shine’ by G. Barlow, J. Orange, H. Donald, M. Owen and S. Robson. It was interesting to note that the latter song was arranged by A.L’Estrange who had visited the school and given a workshop on a separate occasion previously.

Spikes, a delightful group of cellists played an interesting arrangement of the ‘Raindrop Prelude in D flat’ by Chopin and Voicexchange, directed by Peter B North, produced beautifully shaped sounds and effective lively harmonies in ‘Let’s begin again by J. Rutter and ‘For Now’ by R. Lopez and J. Marx.

In Julian Landymore’s hands, the Jazz Band wowed us with ‘Stompin’ at the Savoy’ by B. Goodman, soothed us with the haunting ‘Cycles’ by C. Gordon and ‘Cerulean Sea’ by L. Niehaus and had us tapping our toes with the final ‘jazzy’ ‘Yardbird Suite’ by C. Parker.

The renowned Chamber Choir directed by Ian Sutcliffe presented ‘Oh Shenandoah’ – the song that they were to sing on Radio Cambridgeshire the following Sunday. The maturity and beauty of their voices was phenomenal. This work was also arranged by A. L’Estrange,

The Brass Ensemble conducted by Michel Sedgwick demonstrated tremendous power, glorious tone and slick tonguing in ‘Farandole from ‘L’Arlesienne Suite’’ by Bizet and ‘It Don’t Mean a Thing’ arranged by C.  Custer

A highly amusing piano duet played by Yukie Kimura and Luke Cave provided light contrast before the grand finale provided by The Concert Band playing ‘Wind Power’ by T Deleruyelle, ‘Te Deum’ by J. de Hann and ‘Tom Jones in Concert’ arranged by F. Bernaerts. Michel Sedgwick, a highly talented conductor, had these wonderful musicians creating tremendous sounds of splendour, subtlety and exquisite tonal control. It was no surprise to learn that this band hand had recently completed a highly successful tour of Malaysia in the presence of none other than the King. Spotted amongst the percussion was the previous Head of Music at the school, Graham Griggs.

As we left the theatre with Tom Jones’ ‘It’s not unusual to be loved …’ or ‘The Green green grass of home …’ singing in our ears, we knew we had been to a special event. Is there no end to the talent of the students of this school?

Contact: or tel (01353) 653931

Review: ‘Brontë’ by Polly Teale presented by King’s Company in the Hayward Theatre, Ely, 10th -12th November 2010

November 21, 2010

It is extraordinary how the lives of three sisters, a wayward brother and an elderly father have captured the imaginations of a fascinated people for over a century and a half. The Brontës have become household names since the world has been caught up in the passionate literary creations of the sisters which contrast significantly with their seemingly ordinary, mundane lives in the parsonage at Haworth on the Yorkshire moors.

Charlotte’s novel Jane Eyre (1847), the tale of a young girl’s suffering, devotion and much thwarted love and Emily’s Wuthering Heights (1847), a tale centred on the wild, passionate bond between Cathy and Heathcliff have become an integral part of our culture.

King’s Company encapsulated perfectly the suffering and pain of the girls as they battled to thrive in a cold world filled with death, prejudice and the frailty of the human mind and body. Charlotte (Lexi Hill), Emily (Tori McIrvine) and Anne (Ruth Scott) sparked each other off with sisterly rivalry, compassion and youthful desire. Charlotte ruled the roost as far as her spirited family would allow, Emily was the wild uncompromising one, while young Anne tried in vain to equal her strong sisters. Branwell (Toby Hill) their wayward brother, like a ship lost as sea struggled unsuccessfully for identity and status and their father Patrick (Rowland Daniel) cocooned himself in his own world of caring for his parish and dealing with the frequent hardships and early deaths of his people.

Director Adella Charlton created a credible relationship between the family’s daily lives and the spirited imaginations of the individuals as their characters and phantoms from their books interwove between the crises within the family.

The imaginative Rochester and the real curate who married Charlotte, Arthur Bell-Nicholls, were effectively portrayed by Rory McCorquodale, Sally Cheng was the unforgettable spirit of Catherine Earnshaw from Wuthering Heights and Rob Archer left us with a strong impression of her dark and passionate kindred soul Heathcliff. Bertha from Jane Eyre and her crazed love for Rochester was powerfully portrayed by Annalie Taylor and Heger (Francesco Angrisani) and Arthur Huntingdon (Tony Lesmeister) were also given definitive and effective roles.

This production was challenging for students at a busy school but these fine, talented actors rose to the occasion magnificently. 

For more information about King’s Company contact (01353) 653939

Review: Follies at Ye Olde Rose and Crown Theatre Walthamstow November 2010

November 19, 2010

Tim McArthur (Director) and Aaron Clingham (Musical Director) created a masterpiece in their production of ‘Follies’ at Ye Olde Rose and Crown Theatre Walthamstow. The pub theatre was an ideal setting. As you enter this thriving venue you are immediately transported into a world of nostalgic warmth and climbing up the narrow twisting staircase to the intimate theatre you know you are going to experience entertainment that will stay with you for months to come.

Stephen Sondheim’s music and lyrics and script by James Goldman took us immediately into a world that was instantly recognizable. It was easy to identify with the twists and turns of the clearly defined characters and their current relationships marked and scarred with unresolved issues of the past.   

Glorious tableaux, amazingly slick stage movements and sparkling choreography captured the spirit of the Follies while moments of emotionally-charged reflection, multi-faceted ensembles of symbolic complexity and seductive and energetic dances permeated the music. 

As the characters revived memories from a glorious past, the combination of scenes from their youth were wonderfully and clearly juxtaposed with their current lives in this clever and effective production. Astute casting brought credible lookalikes into play: Mark Hutchinson (Buddy) and Leejay Townsend (young Buddy), Julie Ross (Phyllis) and Nia Evens (young Phyllis), Maggie Robson (Sally) and Emma Lumsden (young Sally), Frank Loman (Ben) and Reuben Kay (young Ben), Rachel Dobell (Heidi) and Jennie-Marie Cooper (young Heidi) were extremely well matched and not once were we lost in the interplay of their inner emotional development from the heady days of raw passion to the more mature, complex characters and their unsettled affairs of the present.  Sally, Buddy, Phyllis and Ben were an awesome foursome and the pain and passion of their interrelationships were almost tangible. Sally’s emotional frailty, Buddy’s thinly-veiled cheer, Ben’s enigmatic complexity and Phyllis’s seething wrath were particularly well conveyed.

The other main characters added depth to the proceedings and included the commanding Roscoe (Michale Dawe), delightfully expressive Hattie (Ellen Verenieks), heart–rendering Emily (Dympna Messenger) and Stella (Mahny Djahanguiri), the luscious and sonorous Carlotta (April Nicholson), the exquisitely French Salonge (Teresa Jennings) and the essential Weissman (Johnson Wilkinson), Kevin (Sam Sadler) and Theodore (Colin Appleby).

Special unforgettable musical moments were Carlotta’s mellow and rich ‘I’m still here’, Ben and Sally’s ‘Too Many Mornings’ and Sally’s poignant ‘Losing My Mind’.

It was no surprise to learn that this All Star Productions’ show was booked out for some of the nights so you are advised to book early for their next production which will be ‘Something’s Coming’ at Theatro Technis, Camden

Review Concert featuring Joo Cho (soprano) and Marino Nahon (pianist) as part of the King’s School Ely Concert Series in the Recital Hall, Hayward Theatre 12th November 2010

November 18, 2010

One of the purest forms of expression available to singers can be found in the Lieder repertoire and Joo Cho, a fine soprano from South Korea, took full advantage of the variety of expression and emotional depth in the works by Schubert, Liszt, Brahms and Schumann that made up the programme she presented on Friday as part of the King’s School Ely Concert Society Series.

Italian pianist Marino Nahon complemented her singing perfectly, fusing with the singer to enhance the sustained tension that pervaded the works. His amazing feats of exact articulation and his ability to create emotive, multidimensional textures were particularly impressive. 

The concert opened with a number works by one of the most valued composers of Lieder, Schubert.  These included Am Flusse (By the River), An Sylvia (Who is Sylvia?), Kolmas Klage, Im Frühling (In Spring), Die junge Nonne (The young Nun), Dass sie hier gewesen (That They Were Here), Der Zwerg (The Gnome), Nacht und Träume (Night and Dreams)  and Erlkönig (The Erlking). Her beautiful voice, exquisite vibrato and discerning shaping of the line, her clear diction and personal involvement in the colour and drama of the songs brought them to life. Kolmas Klage’s emotional darkness contrasted well with the lightness and freshness of Im Frühling   Together the performers moved through emotionally charged changes of mood and texture ranging from an almost tangible softness and sense of wonder to the heightened fury of the pain and suffering of death. 

After interval, Liszt’s Die Loreley, the tale of the maiden tempting sailors to their death was followed by an imposing homage to eternal love (Von ewiger Liebe) by Brahms.

The evening ended with Schumann’s Liederkreis op. 39 and included In der Fremde (In a Distant Land), Intermezzo, Wald gespräch (Conversation in the Wood), Die Stille (The Silence), Mondnacht (Midnight), Schöne Fremde (Beautious Foreign Land), Auf einer Burg (In a Castle), In der Fremde (In a distant Land), Wehmut (Melancholy), Zwielight (Twilight), Im Walder (In the Woods) and Frühlingsnacht (Spring Night).

The performers’ excellent sense of timing, their ability to capture the essence of expression in moments of bliss (in Intermezzo) intimacy (in Wald gespräch), sustained beauty (in Mondnacht) stateliness (Auf einer Burg) and anguish (in In der Fremde) were phenomenal.  

This was indeed a splendid evening and the encore well deserved.

The next Concert Series event will be The Mediterranean Piano Trio on Friday 21st January 2011 730 pm in the Recital Hall

Contact: Lisa Bushell (01353) 653931) email

Review Ely Choral Society ‘Petite Messe Solonnelle’ by Rossini, Ely Cathedral

November 1, 2010

The massed voices of Ely Choral Society, a fine group of soloists and a harmonium and piano combined enchantingly to produce some beautiful sounds in the octagon in Ely Cathedral last Saturday. Under the directorship of Andrew Parnell, the choral singers have shown considerable development in their ability to produce full bodied, warm harmonies, fabrics of neatly interwoven melodies and not-to-be-missed moments of sheer delight.

This was particularly in evidence in their performance of Rossini’s ‘Messe Solonnelle’ and the four interspersed motets by Liszt. ‘The Kyrie’ of the Mass was particularly moving, the excitement, drama and tension deftly developed with Andrew’s demand for precision. Other highlights from the choir included the opening motet ‘Pax vobiscum!, a lively, spirited ‘Cum Sancto Spiritu’ and the meditative opening to the ‘Sanctus’.

Soloists brought fresh colour to the proceedings. They were Rebecca Duckworth (soprano), Jane Huntingdon (contralto), Ian Priestly (tenor), and James Robinson (bass). Rebecca’s ‘Crucifixus’ was particularly radiant and unpretentious.

The evening offered intriguing combinations of sound and in this concert harmonium (played by Anne Page) and piano (played by Maurice Hodges) provided a unique accompaniment. The faultless performances of these instrumentalists supported the singers admirably and provided moments of exquisite charm. This was especially noticeable in the motet ‘O sacrum convivium’ when contralto, female chorus and harmonium created a special tonal quality that developed a mesmerizing sense of intense mystery and depth. 

It is interesting to see that the harmonium was given its own page of notes by Bruce Dracott in the programme. The instrument dates from the time of Rossini making it a most appropriate addition to the proceedings.

Future events featuring Ely Choral Society include:

‘Sing, choirs of Angels’ on Sunday 5th December, 630 pm in St. Mary’s Church

Mozart’s ‘Mass in C minor’ on Saturday 16th April 2011 in Ely Cathedral.