Archive for March, 2015

A Review of Ely Choral Society’s ‘Monteverdi ‘Vespers 1610’ concert in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 28th March 2015

March 29, 2015

There is nothing finer than pure, clear, well focused voices filling the huge vaults of a magnificent cathedral. Andrew Parnell knew this and on Saturday night we witnessed a highly successful manifestation of his vision. With uncanny skill, he inspired Ely Choral Society and Ely Youth Choir to re invigorated the sheer beauty of the 17th century composer Monteverdi’s music and presented a magnificent performance of his ‘Vespers 1610’ in Ely Cathedral, the ideal venue for such as occasion. In addition, he had the courage to move the choir stands in front of the octagon so that the sound would be sent straight down the nave and this made all the difference.
Sometimes branching into as many as 6 parts, the choir produced a powerful, exquisite mass of sound that flowed constantly, the inner workings providing continual interest and variation, revealing the favoured harmonies of the day, which were often decorated with well executed and integrated embellishments. Even though the score was one of the most difficult the choir has faced, they certainly rose to the occasion this time. Ely Youth Choir demonstrated significant improvement since when they were first begun and the clarity and strength of their singing was particularly impressive.
The English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble and Edmund Aldhouse on the chamber organ also added to the performance, the mellow tone of the instruments blending perfectly with the voices, so much so, that it is difficult to understand why these instruments are not being used to accompany singers still. Instruments like cornetti and recorders (played by Gawain Glenton, Sam Goble and Nick Perry), sackbuts (Miguel Tantos Sevillano, Claire McIntyre and Adrian France), violins (Pavlo Beznosiuk, Dominika Fehér and Melanie Woodcock) and theorbo (David Miller) often set the pace and scene or melted into the musical fabric to create magical effects.
A group of expert soloists from the Dmitri Ensemble enhanced the sound considerably and featured: sopranos: Helen Ashby and Kate Ashby, tenors: Aidan Coburn, Nicholas Scott, and Stefan Kennedy and basses: William Gaunt and Nicholas Mogg. The theorbo was a particularly sympathetic accompanying instrument to the soloists’ performances. It was easy to imagine we had moved back the centuries to listen to music of the highest quality of the day.
This was indeed a magnificent event.
The next event will be a Swing concert (with Cathedral Choirs, Ely Youth Choir, Ely Imps, Ely Cathedral Octagon Singers and Ely Consort) in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 13th June 2015
If you would like to be a friend of Ely Choral Society contact Frances Sell email:

Review of ‘Bugsy Malone’ at Witchford Village College on Thursday 19th March 2015

March 26, 2015

Few people, other than those who have been in the business, are aware of the amount of work that goes into producing the school musical. The cast not only have hours of rehearsal and nights of performance but their busy daily schedule of classes and exam preparation must continue. It is no wonder that school students sometimes feel under pressure. It is certain that some adults attempting to achieve the same would find it difficult.
However, the appreciative audience that enjoyed tonight’s performance could easily cast these concerns aside and relax and be highly entertained by this production – one that featured a culture that is quite different to the ours. With the show set in seedy New York, in the prohibition era when gang warfare and murder were common, this script explored the colour and humour of a host of likeable rogues and beautiful dolls. The touch of romance between Bugsy and Blousy Brown made the play complete.
There were many moments of talented performance as the familiar characters played their part. Bugsy Malone (played by Alfie Hiller) stole the show with his brash confident clarity and well-defined personality. Blousey (Esme Bottomly) was his innocent girlfriend, while Fat Sam (Bryannie Quarrie) was every bit the Italian boss. Tallulah (Lara Ekwuru), Dandy Dan (Alex Gordon), Louella (Jane Norman) Fizzy (Alfie Peckham), Knuckles (Sophie Casey Mullins), Bronx Charlie (Jade Drever), Smolsky (Joe Gillett, O’Dreary (Adam Everett), Leroy (Joshua Palmer) and Cagey Joe (Byron Read) all played their parts well, bringing this unique show character ad drive.
Fat Sam’s Gang (Auley Bailey, Stuart Forrest, Lawrence Green and Tim Shepherd) matched perfectly Dandy Dan’s Gang (Daniel Allgood, Louis Pilling, Jennifer Rahaman and Joshua Taylor)
The musical director, Charles Berthon and his band brought this familiar music of considerable impact alive giving the singers excellent support and helping to create very effective scenes.
Director Lisa Barker and the huge team of helpers are to be congratulated for such a fine show.

A review of ‘Island and Hereward’ at Ely Cathedral on Saturday 21st March 2015.

March 26, 2015

Ely Cathedral buzzed with excitement as the stage packed with singers in preparation for a grand concert. They were accompanied by one of Ely’s finest orchestras: Ely Sinfonia and conducted by the renowned Steve Bingham. Together, they gave a first performance of two new works: ‘Hereward’ by Richard Brown and ‘Island’ by Jeremy Harmer and Phil Toms.
When the programme announces a newly composed work is to be presented, I am usually very wary – some modern compositions can be fresh exciting and meaningful while others –
However, tonight proved to be a delightful evening and both compositions were splendid with many grand moments or moments that were evocative, thrilling or just jolly. The vocal lines were clear and succinct, the orchestration skilfully and expressively designed.
The best moments for me in the first composition, Hereward, were in the second movement, ‘Battle’. I would have loved to have been up there on the stage with the performers, stamping my feet to the marching warriors. The first movement evoked the mysteriousness of the Fens perfectly while the third movement was soothing and the final movement was a joyful and tuneful final ‘Celebration’.
This work was commissioned by The High Sheriff of Cambridgeshire, Linda Fairbrother, and if you are interested in performing it, you should contact Cambridge Music or Linda on It comes highly recommended.
The second piece was an enchanting story narrated by Jeremy Harmer who composed the work with Phil Toms. Singers included Ely Imps, massed children’s voices from local primary schools, in Voco Parentis from King’s College Cambridge and the Colchester Institute Cantores Chamber Choir. The quality of performance was amazing considering the numbers involved. The soloists were excellent and featured Jack Grinstead, Lucy Pearce, Robin Horgan, Mark Hounsell,, Jan Moore and Rebecca Duckworth.
This was indeed a special community event that gave much joy to performers and audience.
Ely Sinfonia’s next event will be on the 5th of April when Ely Sinfonia will play Mozart’s Coronation Mass for the Cathedral’s Easter Mass. and a major concert to book early for will be their ‘Eroica, Music from the Romantic Era’ on 9th May at Ely Cathedral contact:
Ely Cathedral Box Office tel: 01353 660349 email:
Ely Sinfonia enquiries: 07889157222/01353721007 email

Review of Chatteris Music Society’s Concert featuring The Band of The Queen’s Division at The Church of St. Peter and St. Paul Chatteris on Saturday 7th March 2015.

March 8, 2015

The Church at Chatteris positively buzzed with excitement as dazzling members of The Band of the Queen’s Division took their places to begin their concert. The packed audience was not disappointed. It was magnificent.
The band was led by two conductors who had local connections with Netherhall School . They were Captain Jon Milne and Warrant Officer Class 1 Ben Mason. They took it in turn to rouse these highly talented musicians into presenting a wonderfully varied programme played with phenomenal skill.
We stood for the National Anthem and then seated ourselves for a real treat. Normally, you would expect the programme would be filled with traditional march music, but this was not the case. These instrumentalists showed that they can let rip as much as any other jazz or rock band.
Luxurious, full jazz harmonies, rippling cascades , rhythmic accuracy and breath-taking agility were the order of the day while tremendous toe-tapping moments emanated from ‘Anything Goes’, ‘Irving Berlin Showstoppers’ and ‘Sousa’.
A lighter, more expressive touch stirred the heart strings with ‘On Golden Pond’, ‘Over the Rainbow’, ‘Smile’, ‘What a Wonderful World’, ‘Bring him Home’, and ‘On my Own’, many of which featured in house- singers.
Only a band such as this could produce the wild excitement and terror of the darkest moments of ‘Phantom of the Opera’, while the amazingly intricate rhythms and catchy tunes of ‘Cole Porter Spectacular’ captivated us all.
Musician Brendan Gudgeon’ s solo on vibraphone in ‘Tribute to Lionel’ was magical and the final pieces, ‘Miss Saigon’ and their traditional marches: The Corps of Army Music and The Queen’s Division rounded this fantastic evening off perfectly.
It was no wonder people had to be turned away for this event, so book early for Chatteris Music Society’s next event on Friday 24th April, featuring The King’s Men.
Proceeds from the evening supported SSAFA (Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen’s Families Association) and CAMUS (Corps of Army Music).
contacts: tel: 01354 669104 or 01354 692009 (for more photographs)

A review of the Cann twins’ concert in the Hayward Theatre on Friday 6th March 2015

March 7, 2015

Why travel to Cambridge or London? Within the heart of our fair city of Ely a number of first-rate concerts are held in the Hayward Theatre on a regular basis as part of the King’s School Concert Series. One of these concerts took place last night and, as expected, it was very well worth attending.
These amazing twins gave us a delightful evening of piano music, played for the most part on two separate grand pianos and from memory. Their tremendous technique, empathy with the music and between each other and their meaningful expression gave the music extra warmth and accessibility.
They played works by Shostakovich, Cui, Tchaikovsky, Liszt, Rimsky Korsakoff, Rachmaninoff and Gershwin. They also included a fascinating work of their own called ‘Black and White Suite’ in which Tony played the trumpet for the first ‘Fanfare’ movement.
The evening opened with ‘Concertino for Two Pianos’ by Shostakovich and these phenomenal pianists brought his sounds to life, whether spiky, sonorous, or robust. An exquisite ‘Notturno’ by Cui followed and then their arrangement of three movements from Tchaikovsky’s ‘Swan Lake’ Suite recalled this very popular music clearly. It was easy to imagine the fluttering swans with the precision and flow of their playing.
A dazzling piano duet of Liszt’s ‘Hungarian Rhapsody no 2’ ended the first half of this popular programme.
With amazing skill they whizzed through the ‘Flight of the Bumble Bee’ by Rimsky Korsakoff to being the second half of the programme. Then the origins of the ‘Tarantella’ – music composed to represent jittery dancing inspired by the fearful tarantula spider was perfectly portrayed in the second movement of their offering by Rachmaninoff. The first movement: ‘Romance’, was ‘romantic’ indeed with moments of heightened passion as the music flowed.
The evening culminated with Percy Grainger’s arrangement of ‘Fantasia on Porgy and Bess’ and it was wonderful to hear all those favourite songs brought to light again, such as ‘Summer time’ and ‘Bess, you is my woman now’. These exceptional ladies had no problem with Gershwin’s unique harmonic texture and syncopated style.
A short encore: The Chinese Dance ended a most enjoyable evening.
The next King’s Ely Concert Society event is on 7th May, featuring pianist Antony Peebles.
Contacts: Performing Arts Administrator tel: 01353 653931

Review of Emma Johnson and the European Union Chamber Orchestra at Cambridge Corn Exchange on Wednesday 5th March 2015

March 6, 2015

EMMA JOHNSON i - Credit John Batten Photography (1)

European Union Chamber Orch EUCO landscapeCambridge alumnus, Emma Johnson joined the European Union Chamber Orchestra to present a stunning concert in the Corn Exchange last night.
Our girl ‘Emma’ (MBE) did not disappoint us:- she was magnificent and every note she played in Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A major, k.622 was beautifully nurtured. As a one-time clarinet player, I know only too well the vicissitudes of playing the instrument, yet, in Emma’s hands, the wide range of expression she evoked, her seemingly effortless virtuosic skill and her undoubted musicality produced an unprecedented effect.
She was very ably accompanied by the European Union Chamber Orchestra. Led by Hans-Peter Hofmann, this orchestra brought back to us that magical era when the popular classical music of the day was written for such orchestras that were more intimate than the later larger versions and were ‘conducted’ by the leading violinist. The clarity, sonorous depth and cohesion of this ensemble were particularly noticeable.
Gustav Holst’s ‘St Paul’s Suite’, Op. 29, No 2, for strings only, was played with vigour and energy, the different melodic material clearly defined. Their performance of ‘Two Elegiac Melodies’ brought out perfectly Grieg’s unique orchestration and turn of phrase. Here, the instrumentalists demonstrated impressive powers of expression as they explored the nostalgic and melancholic themes.
The final work: Mozart’s ‘Symphony No. 33 in B flat K.319 revisited Mozart’s cheerful exuberant style and the orchestra was particularly well-balanced, woodwind and horns very much a part of the music and not just colourful additions.
An encore of a movement from one of Haydn’s symphonies was testament enough that this was indeed an excellent concert, received by a very enthusiastic audience.
contacts:; twitter @clarinetemmaj
Note:the photo of Emma was taken by John Batten

Review of Viva Youth Theatre’s production of ‘Oliver’ at The Brook, Soham on Wednesday 4th March 2015

March 5, 2015

1927873_23572800320_9892_n Dan Schumann

Oliver ensemble 3412007_origA stage packed with young people, acting, singing, and dancing is usually challenging to most inspired directors, but for Dan Schumann this was yet another huge triumph in a long list of amazing shows. Although Dan has an established reputation in the London scene, and he is no stranger to the Edinburgh Fringe, Soham is very fortunate that he remains fully involved in events at The Brook.
His production of ‘Oliver’ was, as expected, superb – and this was on the first night! All the usual characters were there: Oliver (played by Zak Potts) was wonderful, his innocent demeanour a real asset. Widow Corney (Emily Smith) was the epitome of a screeching harpy, her facial contortions and gestures phenomenally successful, and Becky Bush, who played Nancy, was perfect in her part, her mixed feelings beautifully explored. Fagin (Joseph Beach) brought the house down with his performance of ‘Reviewing the situation’, and he portrayed the volatility of the character especially well. Bill Sykes (Charlie Ellerton) was every bit the dark character expected, while Dodger (Jake Stearne) successfully portrayed this colourful, dominant character. Mr Bumble (Charlie Gillett), Mrs Sowbery (Samantha Williams), Charlotte (Macey Bennett), Noah Claypole and Dr Grimwig (Charlie O’Connor), Mr Brownlow (Jack Wright), Mrs Bedwin (Molly Gordon), Old Sally (Laura Davies), Bet (Zara Minns) and Charley(Fred Kirk) were also vital contributors to this fantastic production.
Needless to say, the singing was delightful and the choreography (Louise Plummer) was spectacular. The stage actions were so believable that when Bill Sykes got up to his violent tricks and struck Nancy, there was an audible intake of breath in the audience. How dare he!
The music accompaniment was also of the expected high quality with much successful and varied orchestration. Led by Stephen Kenna, the band also featured Melody Bell, Gemma Perry and Beverly Skyring. Other essential contributors to events were Fagin’s gang, and a number of impressive ensembles.
The show was well supported by a large and enthusiastic team and it was no surprise to learn that it will be performed at the West End on Sunday 8th March at the Shaw Theatre.
We look forward to productions of ‘Abigail’s Party’ in June and ‘Half a Sixpence’ in July.

‘A Strange Day at Queen Adelaide’

March 1, 2015

Jack Waterfall and Martin WhitworthString Quartet EC 2015

Ely Cathedral is known for hosting a variety of events, but last night when the theme of ‘messing about with boats’ was the order of the day, it must have been a first. How many cathedrals can boast of having a boat-naming ceremony within its hallowed walls?
Martin Whitworth, one of the original rowers at the 1944 Cambridge-Oxford boat race held on the Great Ouse near Ely, managed a sterling job of naming a new boat displayed in the Cathedral: ‘Honours Even’.
The majority of the evening was taken up with the film: ‘A Strange Day at Queen Adelaide’ and it contained many fascinating images from war time as well as interesting descriptions and interviews of what it was like at that time.
The evening was enhanced with musical items from Ely String Quartet and displays from local organizations including Cambs. Geosites Team – Fenland Rivers, Diamond44 Community Group, Ely Film Society, Isle of Ely Rowing Club, March Veteran and Vintage Cycle Club, Ouse Washes Landscapes Partnership, RAF Witchford Museum and The Willow Studio, Queen Adelaide.
Profits from the retiring collection will go towards the continuing development of community rowing on the River Great Ouse at Ely.
Overall, the evening felt like a friendly, community affair – a unique experience, well worth attending.