Archive for August, 2011

Review: organ recital by Jonathan Lilley in Ely Cathedral on Sunday 7thAugust 2011

August 8, 2011

On a warm summer’s evening, Ely Cathedral was filled with wonderful sounds from the Cathedral organ as Jonathan Lilley presented a fascinating programme in his recital.

Before climbing into the organ loft, he spoke to the audience offering fascinating information about the pieces he was about to play. One notable comment was his awareness of the attendance of Dr Arthur Wills, the composer of two of the pieces to be performed. ‘No pressure there’ Jonathan said with typical humour.

The recital opened with a grand and joyous performance of ‘Hora giocosa’ (‘Happy Hour’) by Marco Enrico Bossi. This was followed by ‘Prelude and Fugue (Alkmaar)’ by Arthur Wills. Apparently, this composition was written especially for the organ at Alkmaar which did not have sufficient notes for the prelude and fugue Arthur had originally planned to play. His simple solution was to compose this piece especially. But there was nothing ‘simple;’ about the tight structure of this composition. The prelude was an agreeable and clear introduction, encouraging the listener to look forward to the traditional fugue that followed. The intricately-designed fugue had a tightly-woven structure that nevertheless moved forward with a sense of momentum and purpose while remaining musically varied, effective and interesting.

Liszt’s ‘Evocation à la Chapelle Sixtine’ provided an inspiring contrast in the best of Romantic traditions. Jonathan played the piece with real empathy. His timing was exquisite, giving strength to the dramatic intensity or utter serenity of the music as it developed.

Jonathan drew attention to Arthur’s skill as a composer in his performance of ‘Scherzo-Fantasy: The Ely Imps’.  Inspired by a grotesque gargoyle in the choir of the Cathedral, this contemporary piece was brought alive by Jonathan’s technical wizardry. Sophisticated humour permeated moments of quirky mischievousness, ethereal calm or eerie expectancy and the discords in particular were put to good use.

This delightful recital ended appropriately with the more traditional ‘Grand Triumphal Chorus’ by Alexandre Guilmant. We are fortunate indeed to have such talent in our midst. Jonathan’s amazing ability extended to giving a piano recital a few days after this one – on Thursday11th August in the Cathedral — well worth attending.

Forthcoming organ recitals in Ely Cathedral on Sundays at 5.15 pm include:

14th August Paul Trepte, Director of Music at Ely Cathedral

21st August Sarah MacDonald Director, Ely Cathedral Girls’ Choir

28th August James Thomas, Director of Music, St. Edmundsbury Cathedral

Other concerts in Ely Cathedral:

Sunday, 4th September 5.15 Prime Brass, with Jonathan Lilley (organist) and Paul Trepte (conductor)

Sunday 11th September 5.15 ‘Organ Lollipops’ in which Paul Trepte and Jonathan Lilley play audience requests (send to

Monday 29th August 7 pm in the Lady Chapel, Cambridge Voices and the Orchestra of the Age of Reason conducted by Ian de Massini presenting ‘Messiah’ (unabridged)