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


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