Review of ‘The Dream of Gerontius’ by Elgar performed by Ely Choral Society, Cambridgeshire Choral Society, Ely Consort and the Ely Festival Orchestra in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 31st March 2012.

Elgar’s ‘The Dream of Gerontius’ performed by Ely Choral Society, Cambridgeshire Choral Society, and Ely Consort and the Ely Festival Orchestra in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 31st March 2012 was an unforgettable, moving and uplifting experience.

Under the baton of Andrew Parnell, these fine musicians captured the essence of Elgar’s genius.  With carefully shaped and measured precision, the messages of the text were abundantly clear.  Every essence of the journey of the soul of Gerontius and its final release in death was made important and meaningful by these impressive musicians. The audience felt a sense of awe and reverence —most fitting in the inspiring environment of Ely Cathedral.

The combined choir excelled. With a full, wholesome sound, these singers sang with informed assurance, no matter what this momentous score demanded.  Their effects ranged from the solemn prayers of the Assistants and the harsh brutality of the Demons to the ethereal beauty of the Choir of Angelicals. Even in the most interwoven of textures, no opportunity was lost to savour the expressive magnitude, heightened tensions, and profundity.

The orchestra was indeed on equal terms with the singers and these highly skilled instrumentalists balanced perfectly to help create this wonderful, emotional experience that captured the painful anguish of Gerontius’s experiences exactly. In the opening bars it became immediately apparent that we were about to experience something momentous. With both orchestra and choir every utterance was exact but evocative. Tonal richness, effective timing and cohesive, wide-ranging expression were clearly the order of the day.   Jonathan Lilley’s organ playing was also an essential contributor. There was a marked hush at the end of the sections. The listeners had been deeply affected.

The soloists were some of the finest I have heard in Ely Cathedral. Justin Lavender (tenor) was a highly charged Gerontius, his superb voice permeating the words and music with phenomenal emotional intensity. Jeremy White (bass) filled the Cathedral with his powerful voice. The first notes he sang as the Priest revealed him to be a man worthy of the role – one who could fill the Cathedral with astounding tonal control, power and authority. Deborah Miles-Johnson (mezzo-soprano) sang superbly, adding warmth and affection to Elgar’s uplifting music.

This was a most successful evening. There was no doubt why the Cathedral was packed.

Future events by Ely Choral Society include:

Saturday 2nd June 730 p.m. Ely Cathedral Concert Celebrating the Diamond jubilee of HM Queen Elizabeth 11 featuring massed choirs and the East Anglian Chamber Orchestra

Saturday 27th October, 7.30 p.m. Ely Cathedral Autumn concert, including pieces by Haydon, Bruckner and Parnell

Saturday 8th December, St. Mary’s Church, Ely Christmas Concert.

Rosemary Westwell

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2 Responses to “Review of ‘The Dream of Gerontius’ by Elgar performed by Ely Choral Society, Cambridgeshire Choral Society, Ely Consort and the Ely Festival Orchestra in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 31st March 2012.”

  1. Anthea Slater Says:

    trying to contact Linda Perkins but don’t have her address. I understand that she sings with ECS. Anthea

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