Archive for April, 2017

Review of Handel’s ‘Messiah’ in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 8th April 2017

April 9, 2017

Ely Choral Society has excelled again! Its production of ‘Messiah’ by Handel was superb. The conductor Andrew Parnell revealed the real musical worthiness of this very well known composition with his astute and precise directing.  Ely Choral Society Choir and Ely Youth Choir sang with a refreshingly graceful and buoyant exactness that matched Handel’s style perfectly. The soloists were top notch and were particularly expressive in the recitatives, telling the story emotionally and effectively.  These fine soloists were Elisabeth Rauch (soprano|), Helen Charlston (mezzo soprano), Oliver Martin-Smith (tenor) and William Gaunt (bass|). Ely Festival Orchestra and organist Edmund Aldhouse were also magnificent. The orchestra, led by Helen Medlock, played sensitively and melodiously reflecting perfectly the expression of the singers and Edmund, as always, supported the performance admirably.

Highlights for me were the famous ‘Hallelujah’ chorus, the mezzo-soprano’s aria ‘He was despised’, the orchestra’s Sinfonia/Overture, Oliver Martin-Smith’s ‘Thy rebuke hath broken his heart’, Willam Gaunt’s ‘Behold I tell you a mystery’ and Elisabeth Roach’s aria ‘I know that my redeemer liveth’.

The ‘Hallelujah’ chorus was particularly powerful, stimulating and accurate and standing up for it seemed just right. ‘He was despised’ sung by Helen Charlston evoked a strong sense of darkness and defiance. The orchestra exquisitely set the tone of the performance in the Overture with a serenity that captured the potency of Handel’s dotted rhythms and integral embellishments perfectly.  Oliver Martin-Smith’s ‘Thy rebuke hath broken his heart’ brought forth a real sense of desolation, Willam Gaunt’s tone and expression were particularly moving in ‘Behold I tell you a mystery’ and Elisabeth Roach brought special calmness and reassurance  to the familiar ‘I know that my redeemer liveth’.

This was indeed a special evening for the season and was enhanced with a packed audience which knew it was in for a worthy evening of excellent music. It was even more improved by placing the choir in front of rather than behind the space beneath the octagon. The sound produced accordingly was glorious.

You should book early for Ely Choral Society’s and Ely Sinfonia’s concert on the 15th of July featuring Beethoven’s ‘Ninth Symphony’, Vaughan William’s ‘In the Fen Country’ and the premiêre of Andrew Parnell’s ‘Fenland Images’. contact

Review of ‘Treasure Island’ in the Maltings, Ely on Saturday 1st April 2017

April 2, 2017

There is no doubt about it, when Daniel Bell puts his mark on a theatrical production we can be assured of highly entertaining, family fun and ‘Treasure Island’ was no different. With outrageous ideas, such as a bunch of pirates putting on Caribbean cruises, and a regular flow of corny and not so corny jokes we were held spellbound.

Audience participation was encouraged, so much that sometimes the actors had to wait for the audience to finish. At moments like these there were delightful asides as the actor said ‘I can wait’ even though it obviously wasn’t in the script.

The characterization, the choreography and the music, among other aspects, were wonderful.

Long John Silver (played by Terry Gauci) with ‘one of everything’ was a strong character with gravelly voice and tremendous wit. Young Jim Hawkins (Kieran Morris) pursued his goal to find a niche in the world with youthful endeavour. His expressive singing was particularly impressive. Black Beard (Terry Burns) was definitely someone you would not like to meet on a dark night and he carried his role perfectly – sinister but not too sinister so the children delighted in his roguishness. Knobbly Knees (William Males) was a wizard at facial expressions and Sea Dog Billy (Oliver Scott) milked the humour of his role superbly. The Lost Princess (Hannah Shaw) must have had the only straight role in this hilarious romp and she kept this role exquisitely. She was indeed a beautiful princess with a beautiful voice and credible acting.

The choreography by Katherine Hickmott was amazing. It keep the flavour of sea-going pirates alive, while some of the movements had us in awe with the performers’ incredible agility and speed and the carefully mapped stage positioning of the performers.

The music directed by James Golborn was flawless and carefully designed so that even though there were only two performers, this musical show had the perfect backing and setting of the mood in the huge variety of scenes. The singing was superb and choruses added a professional touch.  I loved the drums, thanks to Ian Bee! The Junior Choruses were also splendid additions.

Other worthy contributors include Jessica Theobald (Associate Choreographer), Mark Webber (Musical Arrangements) and Gregory Jordan (Lighting Design) and the unsung heroes in the creative, and production teams and providers.

If you want good, clean family fun you must book early for the next KD production see