Archive for December, 2011

Review: of ‘O Winter Wonderland’ in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 10th December 2012.

December 11, 2011

The girls, boys and gentlemen of Ely Cathedral Choirs accompanied by 78RPM and conducted by Paul Trepte I Ely Cathedral presented and intriguing concert under the title of ‘Winter Wonderland’. Indeed the song of that title was sung by the choirs and the imagination indeed was stimulated to conjure up delightful pictures in the mind of a cold winter’s night, the ground glistening with snow, the sky filled with sparkling stars. This was all possible because of the amazingly wonderful sound these singers produce.

However, the evening was not the traditional one expected. The carols that looked like the same old favourites we can join in with every year had changed! Was there no end to the versatility of these performers.  Inspired by the band, the carols assumed a new lively, jazzy character. At first, it appeared that all tradition had been cast aside, but, of course, carols per se used to be lively dances and such alteration may not have been so drastic as one may have first thought.

Traditional carols given fresh rhythmic drive included ‘O Come all Ye Faithful’, ‘God Rest you Merry’, ‘Silent Night’, and ‘Once in Royal David’s City’. Other favourite seasonal songs included ‘Let it snow’, ‘White Christmas’,’ Drummer Boy’, ‘Mary had a Baby’, ‘Chestnuts Roasting’, ‘Jingle Bells’, ‘Santa Baby’, ‘Shepherds in the fields abiding’, ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’, ‘Joy to the World’, ’Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer’, ‘Mary’s Boy Child’ and ‘We wish you a merry Christmas’. … Paul Trepte certainly gave the items momentum as he drove the singer on with vigorous momentum that matched the band. There were moments of sheer choral beauty that we are used to hearing in Ely Cathedral and these were particularly noticeable in ‘Winter Wonderland’ and ‘Mary’s Boy Child’

Rosemary Westwell

(the entire review may be read on

Review of KD Theatre Production’s ‘Aladdin’ in Soham

December 11, 2011

Wow! What a production! KD Theatre Productions presented a wonderful pantomime at Soham tonight. Daniel Bell and his co-producer Katherine Hickmott certainly know how to entertain. The sheer vibrant energy of the performance, the enthusiasm for revelling in every moment of drama and the quality of singing and dance made this show unforgettable.

This was more than ‘pantomime’, it was a dramatic and colourful event. As author, producer and designer-dressed Widow Twanky, Daniel Bell was central to all things. He and the cast emanated a love of theatre that was irresistible and made the show unforgettable – a highlight of the season. I have never seen a dame able to change so swiftly into so many amazing costumes be they laundy dowager and duck adorer, Cleopatra or jungle Girl. Daniel certainly put his own personal stamp on the  dame. He moved across the stage with amazing alacrity and charisma, even in very high heels, and entranced the audience as he led this fine team in the telling of the tail of the handsome young Aladdin (Lucy Bell) and his desire for the lovely princess Tamara (Emily Robinson).

Abanazar (Tommy D. Kelly Hadley) was the dastardly evil magician determined to thwart Aladdin and rule the world. Robyn Howe made a wonderfully disgruntled Slave of the Ring while So Shi (Mollie Shaw), the Emperor of China (Ben Elgar) and his Empress (Emily Palmer) were the concerned companions of the beautiful princess Tamara (Emily Robinson).

Aladdin (Lucy Bell) slapped the thigh and exuded youthful innocence as the young hero of the plot.

There was everything you could possibly want in this delightful pantomime: verse, strings of corny jokes, sly references to local people and things, slapstick and most of all, a general sense of vitality and joy. The ‘ah’ factor was ever present aided by Oodle (Karina Locke) and Noodle (Susannah Martin) who were hilarious bungling policemen – their gestures and actions in the best of over-the-top tradition. Other favourite and effective characters were Wishee Washee (Don Owen) and his cuddly side-kick Pandy the Panda (Jake Shaw). It will be impossible to forget Wishee Washee trapped in the washing machine, his head revolving as the machine ‘turned’. Matt Brown was the ideal Genie of the Lamp, thumping his chest and announcing his powerful role in vehement tones.

Almost equalling such a host of outrageous showmanship was the splendid Chinese dragon that drew gasps of delight from the audience.

Musical numbers packed the show and the singers and the band were first class. Some of the most enjoyable pieces included ‘It’s Never too late to Fall in Love’ and a highly original version of the ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’. Never before have we seen so many household washing items displayed in such a manner! The fact that only four of the cast were waving around the 12 different sets of objects – be they pots and pans, plastic ducks or bra fit for three – made the piece even more delectable as the four of them flustered back and forth from item to item.

The choreography by Katherine Hickmott was dazzling, as always, and the show sparkled with the dancers’ lithe movements and delightful culminating tableaux. The dancing skeletons certainly added to the darker side of events.  The Panto Babes, Intermediate Dancers and the youngsters filled the stage with swift cohesive movements adding considerable colour and vitality. There are only two words to describe the dancers’ overall contribution: – sheer pizzazz.

With strong contributions from a host of supporters, the production was an undoubtred success. It was no wonder that extra shows had to be put on to satisfy this company’s increasing popularity.

We left the show with the feeling that this dark winter evening was very well spent after watching such a marvellous production.

Rosemary Westwell

Review: of Ely Choral Society and Ely youth Choir’s ‘Ceremony of Carols’ in St. Mary’s Church Ely on Saturday 3rd December 2011

December 4, 2011

We know the Christmas Season is definitely upon us when Andrew Parnell, Ely Choral Society and Ely Youth Choir present their customary Christmas Concert in St. Mary’s Church, Ely. Their concert this Saturday was a delightful introduction to this carol singing season.

Andrew Parnell is not only the renowned conductor of Ely Choral Society and Ely Youth Choir, he is also a composer and his arrangement of the carol ‘Adam lay ybounded’ was a splendid piece and is recommended to any budding choirs looking for a new carol. The lines were firm, the entries carefully shaped and the overall effect very pleasing indeed. There was no doubt that much of its success came from Andrew knowing the choir very well and with his inspiring conducting the lines were stretched and smoothed beautifully. The developing tone of the choir also helped to enhance the performance.

‘A ceremony of Carols’ by Benjamin Britten was then performed by both choirs. Ely Youth Choir opened with the ‘Procession’ from outside the church. They ‘processed’ to join the Choral Society which then burst into glorious sounds with a stirring ‘Wolcum Yole’. The gentler ‘There is no Rose’ followed which flowed smoothly and beautifully to lead into a lovely solo: ‘That Yongë Child’. Another worthy soloist led ‘Balulalow’ and the following ‘As Dew in Aprille’ was joyful and of some impact. ‘This Little Babe’ was a very lively piece and was well executed.  There was no doubt that in spite of Ely Choral Society being such a massive choir, Andrew drew from them the rapidity and excitement that would normally be expected of smaller, ‘manageable’ ensembles.

Jonathan Lilley, as always, accompanied superbly and managed to dash from piano to organ as the need arose without a hitch. He played the piano in this work and his clear and timely contribution helped to create pictures in the mind of the freezing winter night to match the opening words of this piece. There were moments when the pure quality of some of the voices in Ely Youth Choir was particularly noticeable.

Ely Youth Choir’s ‘Spring Carol’ was a very pleasant pastoral-like interlude before the massive choir brought matters to attention again with ‘Deo gracias’.

As Ely Youth Choir moved slowly out of the church while singing the Recession, we knew we had been entertained with a fine performance of this work.

A drink and a mince pie …

There is no doubt that Ely Choral Society is a choir of some standing. The church was soon packed and you are advised to book early for the next events:

Saturday 31st March, 7.30 p.m. ‘The Dream of Gerontius’ by Elgar in Ely Cathedral

Saturday 2nd June, 7.30 p.m. Concert to celebrate HM The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in Ely Cathedral


Rosemary Westwell

(The entire review may be viewed on in due course.)

Review of the King’s School Ely Charity Concert on 2nd December in the Hayward Theatre, Ely.

December 2, 2011

Well, they have done it again. The King’s School Ely, while functioning ‘normally’ as a busy school in a winter term, has managed to pull out all the stops and present a full and entertaining programme in their Charity Concert tonight.

To a packed audience in the Hayward Theatre, a host of groups took their turn to provide some top notch musical entertainment.

The event opened with a masterful fanfare from the brass ensemble: ‘Fanfare for the Lord Mayor of London’ by Bliss, followed by three varied pieces by the Concert Band. ‘I Got Rhythm’ by Gershwin was particularly well played with ‘The Witches’ Sabbath’ by Puccini and ‘A tribute to Michael Jackson’  maintaining interest with some grand sit-up-and-notice moments.

The precision and charming harmonies by Voicexchange enhanced their performances of ‘One Singular Sensation from ‘A Chorus Line’ arranged by Arch and ‘Nobody Knows the trouble I’ve seen’, a spiritual arranged by Chilcott.

The listeners were wowed before the interval with a toe tapping ‘Orange Sherbert’ by Nestico, a gorgeous schmaltzy ‘The Christmas Song’ by Tormé and Wells and a forthright ‘Alianza’ by Morales.

The Brass Ensemble began the second half with a grand performance of Clarke’s ‘Trumpet Voluntary’ followed by a very attractive ‘Santa Baby’ by Jivets and Springer arranged by Maxwell. It was at this point in the evening that one could not help noticing CJ Porter-Thaw of ‘The Choirboys’ fame a number of years ago. His solo trumpet playing was excellent.

The King’s Barbers presented a number of pieces in effective harmony. This large group managed some most tricky entries, and challenging part-singing and movements with ease.

One of the highlights of the evening was undoubtedly ‘Pikes Cello Group’ playing ‘DMO for Cello Quartet’ by Atwell. This was far from one of those open-stringed nice little pieces for school performers. This group mastered very attractive, sophisticated harmonies beautifully.

The Chamber Choir livened events with their part song  ‘Ev’ry time I feel the spirit’ arranged by Chilcott and the culmination of the evening was the grand performance by the Senior Orchestra playing ‘Farandole’ from ‘L’Arlesienne Suite no 2’ by Bizet and the entertaining ‘Bugler’s Holiday’ featuring Charles (CJ) Porter-Thaw, Elric Doswell and Mark Parry.

Ian Sutcliffe, Director of Music, then announced a final surprise. The audience was invited to close their eyes and then, when asked to open them again, lo and behold, the entire orchestra (or over 60 members) had dressed themselves in Santa hats. Complete with falling snow, sleigh bells and the sound of horses ‘hooves, the orchestra let its hair down and played ‘Sleigh ride’.

This had obviously been a highly successful event as a number of members of the audience were caught whistling the tune from ‘Sleigh Ride’ as they left the theatre.

The proceeds from the concert will be given to the ‘Old Dispensary’ in Ely. – a tradition that has been established over a number of years.

Rosemary Westwell