Archive for July, 2011

Review of Cell Talk in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 23rd July 2011

July 26, 2011

The south transept in Ely Cathedral was the ideal setting for a mesmerizing production of Cell Talk by Cameo Theatre Company. The play by Dana Bagshaw is so well written and this company acted so well that the dramatization of the meeting of two religious women in the early fifteenth century became as alive and meaningful as any drama set in current times.

Margery Kempe (played by Tricia Peroni) was the much troubled wife and visionary apt to get into difficulties as she threw herself into her world always struggling to deal with her past while fervently wishing to satisfy her strong religious desires.

John Kempe (Ken Eason), Margery’s long-suffering husband, accepted his secondary role with good grace and did much to add to the humour that was often present. His down to earth, compliant personality helped to steady Margery and her far-reaching ideas, although she finally managed to separate herself from her marriage bed and go on pilgrimage to Jerusalem and Rome. As the characters aged, the tables were turned and it was Margery who decided to see to her husband’s aging needs.

Julian of Norwich (Rosemary Eason), a devout woman of considerable wisdom contrasted well with the lively Margery and their meetings became a rich source of shared experiences that enlightened and enlivened their lives.  Few topics were spared: marriage, religion, politics and sensuality were all issues that were aired. We were introduced to a period with which we had little or no connection but threat of the burning of Lollards (people who questioned the authority of the church), and the effects of the Black Death created additional tension to this captivating plot.

Music played a significant part of the production. Voices and instruments from the period matched perfectly the staged performance.

Director Wendy Walford is to be congratulated for such an excellent production that was a fitting tribute to the fine tradition set up originally in conjunction with Rex who is sadly missed.


Review: Witchford Voices in St. Andrew’s Church, Witchford on Monday 18th July 2011

July 22, 2011

Enthusiasm, liveliness and rhythmic drive permeated the songs delivered by Witchford Voices in their concert in St. Andrew’s Church, Witchford. Under the directorship of Naomi D’Cunha, a host of popular songs filled the programme. Supported by Dee Ireland’s fascinating Sound and Lighting the show entertained the packed audience with polished precision.

This large choir demonstrated moments of considerable talent. Full rich harmonies, fantastic and vibrant pulsation and amazing clarity of diction in the most rapid of lines were the order of the day. The programme included many popular numbers: Billionaire, Don’t Stop Believing, Fix You, Just the way you are, Hallelujah, Lean on me, and Run. Other cultures were delightfully represented most noticeably in Baba Yetu and Africa with Kyrie Eleison providing variety in the list. The carefully orchestrated commentary on the songs by different members of the choir certainly added to the overall impression that this choir knew how to organize themselves and the input of Keith Gallois, Helen Williamson, and Joe Robbins undoubtedly contributed to this effect.

This choir has come on since it was first inaugurated and the medlies from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and Les Miserables were a step in the right direction. How such a packed choir managed to suddenly produce costumes and props for Les Miserables was amazing and the effect delightful.

There were a number of notable highlights: The opening sound effects. the rhythmic momentum and the meaningful backing of Africa, the highly amusing characterization of the Billionaire, the clearly marked variety of styles in songs from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and some gorgeous soft moments that were beautifully shaped in Hallelujah and Run.

This choir shows great potential and it will be interesting to watch their progress in the future. They have already added Ely Cathedral as a venue and a European Tour to their list of notable achievements.

Future events include:

Sunday 4th December 2011 St Andrew’s Church

Friday 9th December 2011 St. John’s Church, Waterbeach

Monday 12th December 2011 Ely Cathedral

Friday 16th December 2011 Witchford Voices Party

The European Tour:

June 3rd 2012 Markt, Bruges, Belgium

June 4th 2012 Hospital of St. John, Damme, Belgium

June 4th 2012: Kerk St. Paulus, Ghent, Belgium

June 5th 2012: Cité Europe, Calais, France


Twitter @witchfordvoices

Book review: ‘Cocaine Blues’ by Kerry Greenwood published by Allen and Unwin

July 17, 2011

At first sight, the title of this crime novel suggests a book that dwells on the wickedness of drug taking. However, while the book is about capturing a major drug baron, its style, its pace and the unavoidably captivating character of the main character, the Honourable Phryne Fisher  and her acute sense of style and adventure make the book more of an exciting detective novel than a tale about drugs. Another endearing quality of the book is that the necessary violence is ever-present but does not quite touch the soul of the reader, making the book highly entertaining.

For me, the most interesting part was the setting: Melbourne, Australia some years before I studied for my music degree at the university in that city. Many of the familiar names and attitudes of the characters brought back memories of my time in Melbourne and tiny details caught my imagination exquisitely.

This is a great read for anyone looking for something that lifts you right out of your environment and sweeps you into a fascinating world of privilege eccentricity and intrigue.

Book review: ‘The Music Room’ by William Fiennes published by Picador

July 17, 2011

I had just finished writing my semi-autobiography about my husband’s epilepsy and subsequent dementia so I was keen to read this book on a similar subject.

I was thoroughly captivated by the tale. The style of writing was easy to follow, the information and descriptions engrossing and, above all, the details of the personality and personality changes in the author’s brother who had epilepsy were exactly right. The dialogue in particular reminded me very much of my husband’s behaviour.

This book also added descriptions of the progress made in the study of the brain over the years and how seizures come about: how specific areas of the brain that are affected can be located, and in some cases, removed to relieve the sufferer. This was not the case in my husband, but the information was gladly received.

I thoroughly recommend this book for an engrossing, interesting read.

Rosemary Westwell

Review: Ely Choral Society’s Let the Peoples Sing at Witchford Village College on Saturdaty 2nd July 2011

July 3, 2011

What a charming programme Andrew Parnell devised for Ely Choral Society’s performance on Saturday night! Nothing appeals more than tunes that have been passed from person to person and Ely Choral Society members, under the directorship of Andrew, obviously enjoyed the rich, robust sounds the folk-song enriched works required. The joy of the singers was shared by the enthusiastic audience as the wonderful summer concert progressed. The songs particularly suited this large choir and strong balanced harmonies filled the hall at Witchford Village College with ease.

The concert began with three songs from Five English Folk Songs by Vaughan Williams: The Dark Eyed Sailor, The Spring Time of the Year and Just as the Tide was Flowing. The balance, tone and sustained lines of the choir were delightful.

Jonathan Lilley, Assistant Organist at Ely Cathedral, emerged from the basses to take his seat at the piano to accompany the Youth Choir for the next items: Britten’s O Waly Waly and Oliver Cromwell. These select young singers sang beautifully and were a credit to their age group. They were particularly responsive to the humour of the final line of Oliver Cromwell: ‘If you want any more you can sing it yourself!’

Jonathan’s piano solos followed. He played Percy Grainger’s Irish Tune from County Derry and Shepherd’s Hey and this Australian-born composer expected nothing more than a dazzling virtuosic performance which Jonathan managed to perfection.  Jonathan’s technical prowess brought out the cleverly interwoven strands in a clear and impressive 3-dimensional texture in Irish Tune while the audience sat mesmerized at the fantastic display in the more lively arrangement of Shepherd’s Hey.

Tenor Charles Schneider stepped from the choir’s ranks to give a splendid solo: Brigg Fair (Lincolnshire) also by Percy Grainger, ably accompanied by Jonathan.

Three contrasting spirituals brought out the best in the choir next: Little David, Play on yo’ Harp by Malcolm Sargent displayed some nifty rhythms and effective changes in dynamics, Deep River by Paul Hart wowed the listeners with gorgeous emotional surges and Ain’a That Good News by W.L.Dawson lifted the spirits with its sheer joy and vitality.

Vem Kan Segla Förutan Vind? (Sweden), Juanita (Spain) and Lorelei (Germany) branched out into wider European realms with the first and last songs sung in the original languages. The clearly aligned and richly balanced harmony of Lorelei was particularly impressive.

Then it was the Youth Choir’s turn to let rip and it gave us a thrilling Medley from Grease: Grease, Summer Nights and You’re the One that I Want. The Choral Society provided more variety and spice with Shenandoah (America) by James Erb, Thula S’Thandwa Sam’ (Zulu lullaby) by Horst Hinze and La Cabaña (Colombia) by Emilio Murillo. The richly interwoven echoes of the tune in Shenandoah, the exquisitely soft final verse of Thula S’Thandwa Sam’ and colour and rhythms of La Cabaña were particularly effective.

One of the highlights of the evening was undoubtedly the piano duet of Greensleeves by Vaughan Williams played by Andrew, and Jonathan. With sensitive awareness, and cohesive dexterity the expertise of these pianists managed to bring out every subtle nuance of this usually orchestral composition.

The final selection sung by both choirs is always a winner and they gave Three Hungarian Folk Songs by Matyas Seiber good measure. The Handsome Butcher was lively and charismatic, Apple Apple had particularly well-shaped phrasing and no one could fail to enjoy the rapid The Old Woman with its outrageous words.

This was indeed a most successful and joyful evening.

Forthcoming events:

Saturday 22nd October, 730 p.m., Ely Cathedral Gloria Italia

Saturday 3rd December, 7 p.m., St Mary’s Church Christmas Concert

Saturday 31st March 2012, 7.30 p.m. Ely Cathedral Dream of Gerontius