Review of ‘Land of Hope and Glory’, Ely’s own Last Night of The Proms, in Ely Cathedral on 2nd June 2012

Ely Cathedral’s Diamond Jubilee Concert was a resounding success. The Cathedral stage was filled with some of Ely and Cambridge’s finest musicians, the Cathedral building was decorated with an uplifting array of bunting and the seating filled to capacity by a huge crowd of enthusiastic participants. There was no doubt that this evening was going to be a magnificent experience.

The tone of the occasion began well with a special forward in the programme by none other than Prince Philip who wished us ‘an enjoyable evening’. Paul Trepte, Director of Music at Ely Cathedral, selected a magnificent collection of music associated with royalty and coronations for the programme. An amazing massed choir gelled superbly under his direction and included Ely Cathedral Choir, Ely Cathedral Girls’ Choir, The Ely Imps, Ely Cathedral Octagon Singers, Ely Choral Society, Ely Consort and Ely Youth Choir.  This amazing concert also featured one of the best orchestra’s of the region:  The East Anglia Chamber Orchestra as well as the renowned Assistant Cathedral Organist, Jonathan Lilley.

The concert opened appropriately with Stanford’s ‘Coronation Gloria’ which contained the expected glorious choral and orchestral sounds. The orchestra then played a selection of movements from ‘Music for the Royal Fireworks’ by Handel. Under Paul’s direction this familiar music was enhanced with his own special brand of vitality and momentum. The precise dotted notes in the overture added to the sense of pomp and ceremony. A light, cheerful Bourrée was followed by a graceful ‘La Paix’. ‘La Réjouissance’ exuded a special Handelian quality while the final very familiar ‘Menuet’ was filled with grandiose gestures fitting the occasion.

The ‘Coronation Te Deum’ by Walton challenged the performers and listeners with complex, changeable textures, declarative episodes and widely varied expressions. This was music of the highest quality performed by musicians of impeccable talent and ability. Walton’s more familiar ‘Crown imperial’ for orchestra featured later in the programme when Paul demonstrated particularly well his ability to infuse the performance with a precise rhythmic drive, energized vigour and new subtleties of expression.

As a complete contrast, we were then treated to one of the ‘old favourites’ ‘The Dambusters March’ by Coates. Paul again demonstrated his unique ability to breathe fresh buoyancy and life into familiar ground.

Britten’s unaccompanied Choral Dances from ‘Gloriana’ by Britten was another contrast containing prime examples of his particular style: his special harmonies, rhythmic demands and characterizations. The almost ‘giddy’ Country Girls balanced the manly Rustics and Fishermen while the Final Dance of the Homage was filled with appropriate gentle strands lovingly woven together.

No concert like this would be complete without Parry and he featured with the much adored ‘I was Glad’ ‘Blest pair of sirens’ and ‘Jerusalem’. In ‘I was Glad’ this massive choir gave Parry’s high notes volume and depth, in ‘the Blest pair of Sirens’ they gave gentility to the interwoven lines and nobility to ‘Jerusalem’. There was nothing strained or restrained about these performances.

A taste of Vaughan Williams in ‘An English Folksong Suite’ for orchestra gave performers and listeners the opportunity to revel in this composer’s special ‘Englishness’ in all the variations offered.

The evening ended with the much anticipated audience participation and the Cathedral was filled with the sounds of patriotic voices singing Holst’ s’ ‘I vow to me my Country’, Elgar’s March: Pomp and Circumstance no.1, ‘Rule Britannia’, ‘Jerusalem’ and Elgar’s variation of the ‘National Anthem’.  The choir relaxed and spontaneously moved as one, jigging or swaying in true ‘Last night of the Proms’ tradition as delicate petal-like confetti drifted gently from the octagon above. At the end of this rousing singing the Cathedral erupted into loud cheers. A final indulgent rendering of ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ brought this amazing, wonderful event to a reluctant close.

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