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



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