Archive for December, 2016

Review of The King’s School’s production of ‘Les Misérables’ in the Hayward Theatre on Thursday 8th December 2016

December 11, 2016

The King’s School’s production of ‘Les Misérables’ in the Hayward Theatre on Thursday was phenomenal. The young cast acted and sang with skill, the turmoil of their characters readily identifiable and the themes of injustice, tragedy, revenge, forgiveness and redemption evolved most effectively with the students’ strong well-focused voices and excellent diction and their highly believable acting.

Directed by Nick Huntingdon with music provided by Jonathan King and his team, this show held the packed audience spellbound as the dramatic and emotional events developed. We were immediately caught up in the anguish of escaped convict Jean Valjean (played by Oliver Wilkinson) who constantly sought justice and care for beautiful Cosette (Indea Cranner) while on the run from an unjust law and heartless Javert (played by Sebastian Carberry). Thénardier (Mark Spofforth) and Madame Thénardier (Emmanuelle Yembe) stole the show with when their macabre comic antics were on stage. Other notable characters were the keen lover Marius (Jean-Paul Gilbey), heart-broken Epinone (Eloise George), sadly-fated Fantine (Elizaveta Denisova) heroic Enjolras (Samuel Black) and the calmly-spoken Bishop (Orlando Squires). Orlando’s singing was especially impressive. The actresses playing young Epinone (Emma Farmer) and young Cosette (Tia Glenister) were also impressive performers.

Stage movements were carefully designed and the crowds of bawdy prostitutes, drunk inn-dwellers, women and rebels were highly entertaining enhancing the atmosphere wonderfully.

An inspired revolving staging easily turned into a battlefield, inn or romantic setting for lovers.

This was indeed an impressive production and it was no surprise there was a standing ovation at the end.

For more information about King’s School productions contact (Cats) and (DNA).


Review of ‘O Come, Come, Emmanuel’ by Ely Choral Society and Ely Youth Choir on Saturday 3rd December at St. Mary’s Church, Ely

December 4, 2016

The concert given by Ely Choral Society and Ely Youth Choir on Saturday 3rd December at St. Mary’s Church Ely was splendid. The title: ‘O Come, Come, Emmanuel’ indicated the nature of this interesting programme which focused on Advent rather than the usual Christmas Carols and readings.

The first work by Alan Bullard was written for Selwyn Chapel Choir which our own Sarah McDonald  directs. (Sarah is also Director of Ely Cathedral’s Girls’ Choir). The opening of the prelude was based on the familiar hymn ‘O come, O come Emanuel’ and the first phrase recurred regularly, making the whole piece that took up the first half of the progamme a cohesive whole.

The choirs under the baton of Andrew Parnell and accompanied on the organ by Edmund Aldhouse, were impressive. The adult choir voices were balanced beautifully and the youth choir’s singing was positively charming.

A very attractive piece by Andrew Parnell, ‘Advent Tidings’, opened the second part of the programme and the choirs really came alive. One of the loveliest performances was the full choir singing ‘Sing of a Maiden’ by Tim Alban Jones. Of the works sung by the Youth Choir, ‘Waiting for the Word’ was particularly impressive.

Moments for audience participation which was remarkably successful under the guidance of Andrew enhanced the evening.

The culmination of the programme was ‘That Wondrous Birthday’ by Ely-composer Arthur Wills who was present at the time. Andrew spoke glowingly of Arthur who came forward to express his delight at the performance: ‘Wonderful!’ he said. Arthur’s intriguing sense of atmosphere and unique arrangements of traditional music were fascinating.

This was indeed a wonderful concert. The next performance by Ely Choral Society is on 8th April in Ely Cathedral singing ‘Messiah’ by Handel.


Review of Antony Peeble’s piano recital in the Hayward Theatre on Thursday 1st December 2016.

December 3, 2016

review-antony-peebles-1Ex-Trinity College Cambridge student and experienced performer and teacher, Antony Peebles, gave a splendid piano recital as part of the King’s School Ely Concert Series in the Hayward Theatre on Thursday.

He played two sonatas by Beethoven, two works by Scriabin and Ravel’s ‘Gaspard de la nuit’. The latter piece was an amazing culmination of the programme and this fine pianist proved himself a master of producing really soft sounds that maintained their musical quality no matter how wide-ranging the textures from delicate trills and rapid runs to masses of chords. Fortunately the Steinway piano provided could respond to his skill. No matter how varied the pictorial episodes were in this composition, Antony captured their essence exactly. From the fluidity of the first movement and the haunting B flat in the second movement to the macabre antics of ‘Scarbo’ in the third, this excellent artist gave credence to every articulation. Even if it was ‘a nightmare to play’ it was no problem for this performer!

Needless to say, Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight’ and ‘Appassionata’ sonatas were expressed magnificently, revelling in Beethoven’s contrasts: one minute smooth, calm and unhurried, the next suddenly excitable and agitated at great volume and strength yet all perfectly under this musician’s control. His use of the split second pause before important musical episodes kept us entranced.

Many pianists prefer the right hand to the left and would rather avoid the flat keys. Not this pianist. His performance of Scriabin’s Nocturne in D flat for the left hand flourished and the music flowed as if played by two hands. His expert touch made the sound appear to have several dimensions as the music surged across the piano.

Not satisfied with the challenges of this nocturne, Antony then played Scriabin’s Etude in D sharp minor, which was indeed a demanding study but magnificently mastered by this amazing pianist.

What an uplifting and memorable concert this was! It was no wonder there was a demand for ‘encore’!

The next concert in this series will be on Thursday 19th January 7.30 in the Recital Hall featuring Gemma Rosefield (cello) and Tim Horton (piano).



Review of Snail Tale’s ‘The First King of England in a Dress’ in the Maltings on Wednesday 30th November 2016

December 2, 2016

review-snail-tales-nov-16Up and coming production team, ‘Snail Tales’ entranced a packed Maltings on Wednesday with fanciful tales of the Fens and Knut, a king in a dress.  The script developed from workshops in schools that stimulated the imagination of the children, helping them to make up fantastic tales that were seamlessly woven into the action.

While a clear summary of the real history behind events was given, the accuracy of historical events in the play was a little suspect, but that was what it was all about. With an array of delightful songs and story-telling crammed with moments for audience participation, this splendid group engaged an audience of mostly children in a world that stretched the imagination and brought to life snippets of reality of a time for which there are few records. There should be much more of this kind of activity!

The singers and actors were highly entertaining, and special commendation should go to Olivia Balzano who is only eleven years old. She held her part magnificently. Chip Colquhoun was an impressive actor and singer. He kept things moving and played his made-up lyre well. When he plucked single notes, rather than strumming chords, it was quite effective. Laura-Jean Robinson was also amazing, her facial expressions a sheer delight. Even the Mayor of Ely, Ian Lindsay, was encouraged to appear on stage, and made a very good impression of a ‘bad monk’.

Congratulations must go to the actors, designer Jenny Stevens, illustrator Dave Hingley, graphic designer Jack Stevens, and the primary schools for their contributions to the storyline: St Andrew’s in Soham, Littleport community and Millfield.

This was a wonderful show packed with ideas – even giving the children an opportunity to have their faces painted. This team should go far. Watch this space.