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

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

Contact: http://www.elyconsort.org.uk

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