Archive for November, 2017

A review of G4 in Ely Cathedral on Thursday 23rd November 2017

November 26, 2017

With the queue of people spilling right out onto the pavement from the entrance of Ely Cathedral, it was obvious that this evening was going to be something particularly special and G4 is a group that has certainly stood the test of time and is as popular as ever.

The evening contained a full and varied programme of music that not only gave us a good taste of Christmas to come, it also touched the heart strings as only experienced singers can do. There were times of joyful acknowledgement of the coming season with traditional carols such as ‘Away in a Manger’, ’O Little Town of Bethlehem’ and ‘Good King Wenceslas’ and the audience was delighted to have the chance to join in with some of them.

The highlights for me were the more pensive moments, especially when this group: Jonathan Ansell, Ben Thapa, Mike Christie and Nick Ashby, moulded together in that memorable harmonic texture that they are renowned for. ‘I can’t help falling in love’ was especially moving.

There were also more jolly moments and the encore medley was particularly effective.

A young choir from Milton Keynes provided variety and it was not doubt that the children were delighted to be on stage with such famous people. They certainly livened up the evening with their lively song in the second half of the programme

The accompanists, A.J. Moore (guitar) and Jonathan Eyre (piano and organ) were fine musicians and supported the event superbly.

This was a highly successful even and there was no doubt that the fans weren’t disappointed. You need to book up now if you want to get into their return performance in the cathedral next year!



A review of ‘Prime Brass’ in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 11th November 2017

November 14, 2017

Prime Brass is renowned as an excellent group of brass players and tonight the standard of music was as high as expected. Conducted by Paul Trepte they gave magnificent performances opening proceedings with the majestic but sombre ‘Marche Triomphale du Centenaire de Napoléon’ by Louis Vierne,

This was followed by an original composition commissioned for Paul Trepte: ‘Fanfares and Chorale’. Paul’s composition was one of the highlights. He explored the contrasts of the more precisely articulated and triumphant fanfare and the more sonorous chorales intriguingly well while creating a cohesive and interesting piece as a whole.

Other delightful pieces performed by this group were ‘Salvum fac populum tuum’ by Widor and ‘A night on a Bare Mountain’ by Mussorgsky arranged by K. Singleton.

Later in the programme, Guy Llewellyn’s arrangement of ‘Mars the Bringer of War’ by Holst was especially effective and the sense of foreboding and the impending horror of war were never lost.

The younger Prime Brass group excelled themselves. Under the baton of Christopher Lawrence they flourished and the pieces they played rang out beautifully and triumphantly through the magnificent vaults of Ely Cathedral. Their ‘Fanfare for a Royal Occasion’ by Ken Naylor, Rigaudon by Campra and ‘Remember’ by Jasper Eaglesfied were delightful. ‘Remember’ was especially interesting for it was commissioned from the young composer who could be found in the midst of Junior Prime Brass. He should go far.

When the groups came together at the end of the concert, the impact of such a powerful sound and the amazing precision of their playing, especially in ‘A Poetic March’ by Alford was particularly noticeable. With fireworks resounding in the park next door before the concert began, the final piece, Handel’s ‘Fireworks Suite’ culminated the concert perfectly.

This was a splendid memorable concert in keeping with this special day.


Review of ‘Show of Hands’ in Ely Cathedral on Wednesday 8th November 2017

November 10, 2017

Ely Cathedral was the right place for Kirsty Merryn, Steve Knightley, Phil Beer and Miranda Sykes to enthrall the packed cathedral with their strong emotive sounds catching that intangible emotional pull of folk-like songs that tell tales of the human condition from time immemorial.

With very effective lighting that changed as the mood or message of the songs altered, these performers showed tremendous skill with their voices and with their instruments ranging from keyboard, violin, lute, accordion or guitar to double bass.

Steve Knightley, on guitar, demonstrated his emotive strengths when he first sang with Kirsty in a duet during her opening songs. Kirsty’s original songs were youthfully spirited and charming and her keyboard accompaniments tasteful and tuneful. Many of her songs are featured in her new album ‘She and I’ about women of history.

The members of this excellent acoustic band, ‘Show of Hands’, Steve Knightley, Phil Beer and Miranda Sykes were well attuned to each other and created many moving moments of beautifully blended harmony.  One of the most effective instants was when they moved down the aisle in the cathedral their voices echoing atmospherically into the vaults of this superb building. Their stage performances evoked many a melancholic story of folk from different parts of England and from different times. More often than not, they accompanied themselves with toe-tapping rhythms reminiscent of Irish exuberance and it was very hard not to tap one’s feet as their music seemingly got carried away. It was easy to see why they are so popular. There must be very few people who do not relate to the messages of their songs.

This was indeed a wonderful evening.

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a review of ‘Brassed Off’ presented by Viva in Soham on Thursday 9th November 2017.

November 10, 2017

What an excellent production it was! ‘Brassed Off’ directed by Keith Gallois and Judith Collingswood and produced by Keith and Alison O’Connor, was a magnificent show. All the characters rang true and through their fine acting we were transported into the lives of the mining families in times of trouble, sharing with them the agony of poverty and the humour needed for survival. With the superb performances by Soham Comrades Brass Band, we were treated not only to an admirable presentation of what many of us remember from the film, but the music was a splendid treat too.

David Tickner played Danny to the tee. He was indeed a band conducting fanatic. His grandson Shane (played by Alfie Peckham) was an ideal young boy acting the part with natural flair.

The main miners and band members, Jim (Steve Perry), Harry (Geoff Fisher), Phil (Darren Smith) and Andy (Will Cahill) were wonderfully ‘laddish’ and some of the best scenes that were probably some of the most difficult to present successfully, were those when the band slowly disintegrated into a cacophonous mess after the members had had a few too many drinks at each village on their tour.

The wives, Vera (Sue Perry), Rita (Mandy Morrish) and Sandra (Sophie Plachcinski) were all credible partners whose passion was evident right from the start. Gloria (Amy Noonan) was a superb representative of the powerful managers who had obviously decided to close the mine, in spite of her glowing report of how successful it could have been. Her naivety came through very well and added spice to her relationship with her old flame Andy. He was indeed a young lad with an eye for the girls and incapable of arriving to band practice on time.

A mention must go to the actor Andy Gillett who gave an unnervingly realistic portrayal of the bailiff. Other vital contributors were Bridget Hickish, Gemma Politt, Dave McCalpin, Clare Gillet, Justine Whitworth, Helen Meads, Benjamin Surridge, Ruby Fordham, Sarah Boor, and Ellie Gillett.

Congratulations to everyone who took part and provided the support that is always much needed and which was very much in evidence in this excellent production. .

This was indeed a most satisfying night’s entertainment. As one member of the audience was heard to say, ‘Who needs the West End when we have productions like this here?’



Review of The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Corn Exchange, Cambridge on Thursday 2nd November 2017

November 2, 2017

What an exhilarating evening! This concert, more than ever, demonstrated to me just how much more there is offered in a live concert than the plethora of recorded music we hear these days.

Cambridge was the ideal place for performing the one of the items in the programme: ‘The Wasps Overture’ for the composer Vaughan Williams wrote this music for a production of a satirical play of the same name at Trinity College Cambridge.

The music indeed brought to mind the sinister buzzing of wasps as well as the venomous antics of the legal profession.

In this wonderful concert, the opening ‘Coriolan Overture’ by Beethoven demonstrated immediately that we were in the presence of experienced, skilful and sensitive musicians.

In this piece, and throughout the evening, the conductor Barry Wordsworth, brought out the subtleties of the music splendidly with compelling restraint in the most gentle episodes to the dramatic outbursts of the more bombastic moments. This splendid orchestra is a real asset as the Orchestra in Residence at the Corn Exchange.

Piano soloist, Janina Fialkowska was magnificent. Her phenomenal technique identified the key musical content of Chopin’s virtuosic and rather complicated score in his second piano concerto. Within the busy fabric she teased out Chopin’s moving melancholic melodic strains from the abundant virtuosic flourishes to the basic harmonic accompaniment. Her musical understanding and skill was always apparent.

The final ‘Enigma Variations’ by Elgar was the most inspiring and exhilarating performance of this popular work that I have ever heard. While appearing to be a complex score with clever intertwining of the theme in the extremely diverse variations, we could enjoy this work perfectly at face value, revelling in the different characteristics of the friends Elgar featured. We revelled in it all: rapid chattering, bombastic outbursts, tentative stammering, gentle laughter, the helter skelter of a bulldog, grandeur and strength, charming delicacy, emotional tenderness, and triumphant confidence. The pieces came alive while throughout the variations there remained that intriguing enigma that has never been explained – just perfect.

This was indeed a wonderful evening.

The next concert in this Cambridge Classical Concert Series is on Thursday 18th January 2018 featuring the City Of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. for more information: