Archive for June, 2015

Review of Viva’s production of ‘Avenue Q’ in the Maltings Ely on Saturday 20th June 2015

June 21, 2015

Avenue Q VivaThe line from the programme says it all: “Avenue Q has not been authorised or approved by the Jim Henson Company or Sesame Workshop which have no responsibility for its content”.

This fantastic production by Viva in the Maltings, Ely was definitely no ‘Sesame Street’ for the puppet characters were, to put it mildly, dysfunctional or perhaps I should say, ‘normal’ adults, with adult depressions, desires, faults and language (!), yet not a moment was offensive – unless you are no longer of this planet.

The drama, choreography, character portrayal, singing and accompaniment were of the highest quality. The actors manipulated the puppets skilfully, putting across their personalities really well. Their expressiveness was phenomenal.  All of life’s problems when you live in a back street (or, in this case ‘Avenue Q’) were there: Kate Monster (played by Naomi Porter) and her troublesome love affair with Princeton (played by Nick Huntingdon in this production/Simon Thompson on Thursday); Rod (Ben Clark) and his frustrated gay-ness, exacerbated by Nicky (Michael  Kowalczyk) who was definitely not gay, jobless Brian (Lee Sherwood) and his dominant ‘oriental’ wife Christmas Eve (Kerry Hibbert), Trekkie Monster (Charlie Gillett) and his adult interest in the internet,  seductive Lucy the Slut (Emily Norman/Emily Smith), crabby school principal Mrs Thistletwat (Emily Norman/Emily Smith), black Gary Coleman (Becky Bush) and Bad Idea Bears (Ellie Bovingdon and Charlie Ellerton). They were all magnificently played so that events developed realistically and for the most part, hilariously, poking fun at ‘normal’ human weaknesses.

Director Josh Schumann, Musical Director Graham Brown and co-musical director Richard Hayward and his band of musicians, choreographer Louise Plummer of Newmarket Dance School and their team of dedicated staff are to be congratulated for such an amazing and highly successful production. They will certainly wow the audiences at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Viva’s next production to enjoy will be ‘Half a Sixpence’ at The Brook, Soham 730 pm from 29th to 31st July. tickets: (01353) 722228 http://www.viva-group.org.uk

Review of Ely Sinfonia’s ‘Something Old, Some thing, Something Borrowed, Something Blue’ in Ely Cathedral on Friday 19th June 2015

June 21, 2015

Steve and Jenny BinghamWow! What a concert.

When the orchestral members left the stage mid performance at the end of the first piece, it was a little concerning. However, one glance at the programme was reassuring – it was Haydn’s ‘Farewell Symphony’ in which the musicians are instructed to leave to stage so that Haydn’s patron at the time would take the hint and let his musicians go home after an extended holiday.

Strongly led by conductor Steve Bingham, the orchestra revelled in its now powerful sound.  The instrumentalists were confident, expressive and very much a part of the exhilarating atmosphere that pervaded the concert.

The mixture of such varied items provided a fascinating programme.  The more traditional works: Haydn’s ‘Farewell Symphony’, and Ralph Vaughan Williams’ ‘English Folk Suite’ (arranged by Gordon Jacob) were very effective.  In the Haydn, his humour and cheerfulness were evident. The melodies sang, the orchestra ‘danced’ and even the short accompanying notes became expressive under Steve’s influence.   The jolly character of the folk tunes in Vaughan Williams’ composition was beautifully captured.

The highlight for the evening was ‘Après Moi’ by Regina Spektor and arranged by Rowan Marshall. Soloist, Jenny Bingham (Steve’s daughter) came into her own in this amazing performance.  Her vocal potency, tonal variety, and wide – ranging expression from unrestrained attack to gentle sweetness caught exactly the passions within this unusual piece. It did not matter that the words were enigmatic; we understood and shared the emotions they engendered.  It was no wonder that the audience clamoured for this as an encore.

Other works we enjoyed included Purcell’s aria ‘When I am Laid in Earth’ from Dido and Aeneas, ‘The unanswered question’ by Charles Ives, ‘Lacrymosa’ – an arrangement by Rowan Marshall (and the band Evanescence) of Mozart’s composition of the same name, ‘Feelin’ Good’ by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse also arranged by Rowan Marshall and the final toe-tapping Birdland by Zoe Zawinul  – also touched by Rowan Marshall’s  very musical hand.

This exciting  concert was a family affair because not only was Steve Bingham master of operations, his talented daughter, Jenny was the star soloist and his wife/her mother was to be found sounding the bells in the percussion section.  Their musical talent was enhanced by  a wonderful collection of other talented performers: orchestra, arranger/keyboardist Rowan Marshall and an impressive choir led by Jan Moore singing Mozart’s ‘Lacrymosa’ during the intriguing arrangement of this work.

This was indeed one of the most uplifting concerts in recent events.  Long may it continue.

Ely Sinfonia’s next event will be on Saturday 24th October at Ely Cathedral at 730 pm when they will be performing ‘Carmina Burana’. tickets: Ely Cathedral Box Office: tel: (01353) 660349 email: box.office@elycathedral.org.

review of ‘Cuillin Sound’ on Thursday 18th June in the Hayward Theatre, Ely, Cambs. UK

June 21, 2015

Cuillin Sound is a fine group of woodwind players: Dana Morgan (flute), Sarah Watts (clarinet) and Laurence Perkins (bassoon). In their concert in the Hayward Theatre on Thursday night this highly talented trio played with phenomenal virtuosic skill, their notes clearly sounded and particularly well articulated no matter how rapid the pace. The impressive programme was enhanced by the different varieties of flute and clarinet that Dana and Sarah introduced.

The Cuillin is a range of mountains on the Isle of Skye in Scotland and the ensemble created some wonderful expressive sounds to reflect this connection. One of the highlights of their concert was ‘Da Day Dawns’, arranged by the bassoonist, Laurence Perkins. As evocative tones of a traditional Shetland melody floated above it was easy to imagine the gentle rays of the sun revealing themselves at the winter solstice. The jigging tune that followed was a indeed a memorable frolic in traditional style.

Other works we enjoyed included:  ‘Trio Sonata’ BVW 1038 by J.S. Bach, ‘Trio’ by Kasper Kummer, ‘Celtic Knot’ by Edward McGuire, ‘La Follia’, arranged by Laurence Perkins, ‘Syzgy’ by David Bennett Thomas and ‘Passacaglia’ by G.F. Handel.

The final Presto of Bach’s Trio Sonata was particularly exciting, with moments when the bassoon came onto its own, while the specially selected flute and clarinet helped create a realistic Baroque sound. Kummer’s ‘Trio’ had some highly effective conversational moments as the instruments reflected the natural flow of dialogue with empathy.  Deliciously mellow sounds were created in ‘La Follia’, in ‘Syzygy’ each instrument explored its tonal qualities effectively, while in ‘Passacaglia’, the variations were well-defined and their imaginative quality enhanced particularly well by these amazing performers.

This was a wonderful event. The well deserved encore featured a delightful, light-hearted traditional melody from St. Kilda.

The next Concert Society event to enjoy is on Friday 18th September when the Fujita Piano Trio will be performing at 7.30 in the Hayward Theatre. For tickets contact Sophie Collier (01353) 653931 sophiecollier@kingsely.orgCuillin Sound KSE Concer Series Y email

Review of ‘I got Gershwin, Summer Swing concert’ at Ely Cathedral on Saturday 13th June 2015

June 18, 2015

Review of ‘I got Gershwin, Summer Swing concert’ at Ely Cathedral on Saturday 13th June 2015

Paul Trepte is a very versatile Musical Director and this jazz evening was yet another new and highly successful show in Ely Cathedral.

The event was exciting and spectacular, having us toe-tapping in our seats. When the first strands of the opening number: ‘Let’s face the music and dance’ started, I knew we were in for a thrilling evening.

The 78RPM Big Band, led by Julian Landymore, was fantastic with an amazing sound and impressive solos. The highlight for me was when the trombones gelled with that familiar Glennn Miller-type accompaniment as they moved down the nave, returning to sway with the music, their instruments waving in the air in true jazz band style. It didn’t take me long to think that of all the instruments in the band, I wanted to learn the trombone – although the sexy sounds from the saxophones were tantalising too. Then, come to think of it, the piano and flute were also exceedingly attractive after hearing these performers play so soulfully and the drums, well, I defy anyone not to want to have a go after this tremendous display.

The mass of singers: Ely Cathedral Choirs, Ely Cathedral Octagon Singers, The Ely Imps, Ely Choral Society, Ely Youth Choir and Ely Consort were magnificent. In the second half of the programme they came into their own mastering intricate rhythms and full challenging harmonies. Their voices rose powerfully into the Cathedral vaults adding yet another dimension to this exhilarating sound.

The solo singer Ruth Applin sang beautifully and when she fully relaxed in the second half and she sang the final number: ‘New York, New York’ in a luscious easy ‘swinging’ style she captured the essence of the song perfectly and had the singers dancing to the beat with free abandon.

The amazing programme also included many old favourites, like ‘Luck be a Lady tonight’, It don’t mean a thing’, ‘Oye Como Va’, ‘That Ol’ Devil Called Love’, ‘S-wonderful’, ‘I got rhythm’, ‘American in Paris’, ‘Fascinatin’ Rhythm’, ‘It ain’t necessarily so’, ‘West Side Story’, ‘A Taste of Honey’, ‘Tuxedo Junction’, ‘Don’t Sit under the Apple Tree’, ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’ and ‘Pennsylvania 6-5000’.

We clamoured for the encore but after this, the evening had to close, much to our regret. This concert was a real winner.

The next event to enjoy in Ely Cathedral is Ely Sinfonia’s ‘Something Old, New, Borrowed, Blue’ in Ely Cathedral Presbytery. For tickets, contact Ely Cathedral Box Office tel: (01353) 660349 or email: box.office @elycathedral.org

Review of Viva’s production of ‘Abigail’s Party’at The Brook, Soham, on Friday 5th June 2014

June 6, 2015

Every line a cutting insinuation, Abigail’s Party is one of those unforgettable plays that have you squirming in your seat in sympathy with the characters. Script writer Mike Leigh certainly knows how to throw a verbal punch.

The acting in this production was superb – how each character managed to convey such venom or embarrassment beneath the seemingly banal conversation was amazing.  Every person held your attention. The astute direction by Emma Moat and Maggie Brackenridge had you focusing on the recipients as much as the speakers, who, with careful timing and changes of tone expressed the underlying innuendo of their lines perfectly.

Bev (played by Sarah Dowd-Crosby) with her affected voice and duplicitous comments, was the epitome of the self orientated wife and worst best friend. Her manipulation of her husband and her guests, her one-step-too-far barbed remarks and explicit flirtatious behaviour were pivotal to the tension that emanated from the stage.

Her long suffering husband, Laurence (David Moat), working day and night, constantly at Bev’s beck and call was bound to explode one day and his downfall was inevitable.

Ange (Kirsten Martin) flopped down in the sofa and relaxed for the evening, oblivious to much of the veiled malice that was going on and was quite carefree about her husband and Bev thoroughly enjoying their sensuous ‘dancing’ as they all but smooched together to Bev’s favourite music.

Tony (played by John Bedford) was a wonderful monosyllabic husband, who, given half a chance might have enjoyed himself but ensconced in this suffocating atmosphere could only express a turmoil of emotions in clipped single word answers. The tone and timing of his delivery told us all.

Sue (played by Rania Kurdi) was an exact contrast to Bev, demurely dressed, obviously ill at ease with the excessive drinking and unhinged comments. It was fascinating to watch this actress convey so clearly and realistically and in such a minimalistic way that Sue was there under sufferance because her teenage daughter Abigail was having a party and had ‘asked’ her mother to leave. Every uncertainty Sue suffered and every tragic detail of her life was brought out into the open and insensitively aired and explored by Bev and Ange.

With this powder keg set ready to go the final spectacular scene brought things to its expected dramatic end.

With strong support from the crew, this was indeed a splendid production – well worthy of the message of good wishes from Alison Steadman.

The next production by Viva to enjoy is ‘Avenue Q’ at The Brook, Soham from the 17th to the 19th June 2015.