Archive for November, 2011

Review: Out of the East End

November 28, 2011

Whenever I see that Mike Rouse or Viva Youth are associated with an event I know it is going to be good and I was not disappointed with the production of ‘Out of the East End’ that took place in the Countess of Free Church Ely last Sunday night.

The script, a true story of the evacuation of London Jews’ Free School and the Central Foundation Girls’ School of Ely during the Second World War, was written by the well known local historian and writer Mike Rouse and brought home exactly what it must have been like in those dark days in Ely. It was interesting to note that the Countess of Huntingdon Church had been used as a synagogue for the Jewish evacuees at the time – hence this choice of venue.

Mikey Kowalczyk directed the show and the antics of the children, so realistic and entertaining, were particularly well choreographed and acted by the young talent.  The cast created viable characters and the storyline always clear and effective. Among the cast were a number of high profile locals including David Tickner (Head of Drama at Soham Village College) and his primary teacher wife, Delia. Lawrence Whitworth, now almost a regular on local stages gave a particularly entertaining performance with his antics as a young refugee as did the remainder of the actors and actresses.   The rest of the cast included Sarah Boor, Hayley Craig, Olivia Fahy, Esther Hiller, Isabella Minns, Andy O’Hanlon, Emily Palmer, Cassie Rouse and Rebecca Storey.

The script was packed with detail, interesting facts and reflections of the emotions aroused at the time. A real live air raid siren, the children’s leather cases and gas masks (with inevitable skits ensuing), Anderson shelters, a gas rattle

Accompanied by James Fletcher on piano, a number of familiar songs from the time were featured including ‘There’ll always be an England’, ‘Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye’, ‘Run Rabbit…’, and ’Pack up your Troubles’, to name but a few.

This was indeed a most successful and ambitious project.

Rosemary Westwell


Review: The King’s School Ely’s concert: ‘Christ the King’ in Ely Cathedral on Sunday 20th November 2011

November 28, 2011

The King’s School Ely’s concert, ‘Christ the King’ in Ely Cathedral on Sunday 20th November 2011, certainly came up to expectations. It was the epitome of distinction and ‘class’. The King’s School Chapel Choir, Chamber Choir and Barbers, Prime Brass and Jonathan Lilley (organ) under the directorship of Ian Sutcliffe presented an event that was of the highest quality and most fitting for the Cathedral and the time of year.

Positioned in the presbytery towards the east end of the building, the voices filled the vaults robustly and the brass and percussion rallied magnificently while Jonathan Lilley played the organ with his usual panache. …

The programme of mostly sacred pieces heralded the Christian religious Feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday of the church year – the one before the beginning of Advent. Composers included Finzi, Bullock, Mathias, Howells, Britten, Vaughan Williams, Tippett, Ireland, Bliss, Walker, Rose and Rutter – an array of some of the greatest.

The opening ‘God is gone up’ by Finzi brought matters to attention with vibrant fanfares from the brass and potent singing from the choir. It was interesting to note that the work had been arranged by the Director of Music at the Cathedral, Paul Trepte, who was in the audience at this concert.

The Bullock, ‘Give us the wings of faith’, brought out the most reflective quality of the choir, while ‘Lift up you heads’ by Mathias was punctuated with quirky attention-grabbing rhythms that never missed a beat. The mystery in the line ‘Who is this King of glory?’ was mesmerizing.

Jonathan gave ‘Rhapsody no. 3 in C sharp minor’ by Howells good measure, revelling in its moments of bombastic declaration that reflected the environment in which the composition was written – during Zeppelin raids which made it impossible for the composer to sleep. What better way to cope than to pen a composition of this magnitude! Jonathan’s skill brought out the cohesive quality of the work, enhancing the powerful effect of the regular poignant falling chromatic lines.

Then, suddenly, trumpets sounded from afar performing ‘Fanfare for St Edmundsbury ‘by Britten. The distant call of the trumpets reflected the environment for which the piece had been written originally. It had been written for the ‘Pageant of Magna Carta’ to be performed in the grounds of St Edmundsbury Cathedral, Bury St Edmunds. The three contrasting trumpet solos gelled perfectly in their final combined effort.

The men’s voices added warmth to Vaughan William’s ‘The Call’, while King’s Chapel Choir oozed luxurious harmonies in Tippett’s arrangement of the spiritual ‘Steal Away’. Ireland’s attractive writing was enhanced with the sheer beauty of the soprano and alto voices in ‘Ex ore innocentium’ and Prime Brass treated us to a vibrant snippet of theme music for a BBC series on British Architecture – ‘The Spirit of the Age’.

One notable factor of this event was the slick movements of various members of this large mass of performers. The opening strands of ‘I will lift up mine eyes’ by Walker came from beside us to the right and the effect of King’s Barbers’ expressive qualities made the piece very moving. Peter North’s expertise as their director was in no doubt.

With antiphonal effect, Barry Rose’s unaccompanied ‘Love’s Endeavour, Love’s Expense’ was sung by King’s Camber Choir to the left of us and the singers certainly brought out the charm and delicacy of the work.

The concert culminated with Rutter’s ‘Gloria’, a work of depth based on Gregorian chants. Choir, Prime Brass and organ performed magnificently, heightening the excitement and vitality of the first and third movements while pausing thoughtfully to reflect the prayerful central movement.

This was a magnificent concert and a testament of Ian Sutcliffe’s inspirational directorship and conducting. With music of this quality to aspire to, there will no doubt be a clamouring for The King’s School’s recently announced of scholarships for budding male singers in the sixth form.

The King’s School’s next major event will by the Charity Concert on Friday 2nd December 730 in the Hayward Theatre. Contact:  The Gibson Music School (01353 653931) email:

Rosemary Westwell

(note: the entire review may be found in due course on

Review: Robbie Stern (violin) and Philippa Naylor (piano) at the Hayward Theatre in Ely On Friday 11th November 2011 for The King’s School Ely’s nineteenth season

November 16, 2011

Review: Robbie Stern (violin) and Philippa Naylor (piano) at the Hayward Theatre in Ely On Friday 11th November 2011 for The King’s School Ely’s nineteenth season

Robbie Stern (violin) and Philippa Naylor (piano) captured the hearts and minds of the audience in the Hayward Theatre, Ely on Friday night. The regular supporters of the King’s School Ely Concert Society series have come expect an event of the highest quality and they were not disappointed.

Robbie and Philippa, two students in their final year at Cambridge University, knew their stuff. Robbie demonstrated an assured command of his instrument. No matter which techniques the pieces demanded, he executed them effectively every time. Philippa also displayed a tremendous technique and shaped her contributions expertly to match Robbie’s well.

The programme consisted of pieces that were Robbie’s favourites and the decision to include such demanding compositions for performers and listeners certainly paid off. The instrumentalists’ empathy with the composers’ intentions made their playing credible and captivating.

Such was the homely atmosphere that these concerts have come to engender, the audience was more than happy to wait a little before the concert began so that Robbie’s parents had a chance to get to the concert hall from Ely station.

Robbie chose to open the concert with a charming movement from J S Bach’s PartitA No.1 in B minor for solo violin: Allemande – double. It became immediately apparent that Robbie has a most endearing capacity for bringing out the musicality of a piece while at the same time maintaining a sense of tension and restraint that creates that special bond between composer, performer and audience.

Philippa then joined Robbie on stage and they performed Sonata for Violin and Piano in G Major by Maurice Ravel. Robbie introduced the item and mentioned how Ravel had said he believed the violin and the piano had little in common and could never enjoy complete equilibrium. This piece certainly displayed this attitude by the composer. However, just as I have difficulty in accepting Ravel’s apparent boast that he could describe anything in music – even a chair, it is difficult to accept that these two instruments were entirely incompatible. Whatever the intension of the composer, these skilled performers did have rapport, their music although seemingly ‘at odds’ at one level, was nevertheless cohesive with effective communication and understanding between the instruments. The opening Allegro contained moments of mutual understanding, effective dialogue and intriguing juxtapositions that nevertheless ‘matched’.

The second movement reflected the kind of blues music Ravel probably heard in the streets of Paris. …

The concert ended with another challenge for the performers: Serge Prokofiev’s Sonata for Violin and Piano no. 2 in D, Op. 94. This work offered Prokofiev’s attractive melodies and classical structures and these made the unusual intervals of his day all the more acceptable to the unaccustomed ear. The first movement, Moderato, had a most tuneful opening, and Robbie’s exquisite restraint was again particularly noticeable.  The second movement, the traditional Scherzo, was indeed playful and jolly at times, the third movement, Andante, created an overall sense of suspended quiet and calmness with occasional more thrilling developments. The fourth movement, Allegro con brio, opened with a flourish and the piece certainly added fiery liveliness to the proceedings.  In this movement the amazing technique of the performers was particularly apparent. The potency and strength of Rebecca was never in any doubt even though she performed as ‘accompanist’ throughout the evening. As expected, Robbie rose to the occasion and filled the hall with sounds of dramatic intensity, providing an admirable ending to this most enjoyable concert.

Forthcoming events:

Wednesday 16th to Friday 17th November King’s Company Play ‘Improbable Fiction’ by Alan Ayckbourn 7.30 in the Hayward Theatre admission free

Sunday 20th November ‘Christ the King’ Choral Concert King’s Chapel Choir, Prime Brass and Jonathan Lilley (organist) 8 p.m. Ely Cathedral

Thursday 24th November Lunchtime Live Concert 1.10 Ely Cathedral

Friday 2nd December, King’s Charity Concert 7.30 p.m. Hayward Theatre

Friday 20th January King’s Ely Concert Society, Richard Uttley (piano) 7.30 Recital Hall

Thursday 26th January lunchtime Live Concert 1.10 St. Mary’s Church Admission free

Contact: Lisa Bushell at King’s Ely Music School (01353 653931) email: (for the entire review)

Rosemary Westwell