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

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.



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