Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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!

 

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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.

For more information contact http://www.showofhands.co.uk, http://www.steveknightley.co.uk, facebook.com/kirstymerryn

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: http://www.rpo.co.uk

 

Review of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ in The Performing Arts Theatre Soham Village College on Thursday 26th October 2017

October 29, 2017

What a wonderful evening! We were transported into a joyous fantasy world of sparkling music and fairytale magic that caught our imaginations superbly. We adored Belle (played by Holly Pryke) who was the beautiful young maiden with the lovely voice who deftly spurned the advances of the conceited Gaston (Zack Wymer).  We loved her as she worried and cared for her eccentric father Maurice (Javier Londono) and eventually cast away the evil spell on the Beast (Torin Fahy) so he could turn into the handsome prince he once was and they could live happily ever after. There was hardly a dry eye in the house.

The whole cast was magnificent, from the ensembles to the major roles. Movements on the stage were swift and uplifting to witness and the tableaux that grew to fill the stage only to melt away imperceptibly were delightful. The singing was of a very high standard and it was very moving to see such a host of young people obviously enjoying themselves as they ‘sang their hearts out’.

Besides the excellent main characters, including Le Fou (Zak Potts), and Madame D’Arque (Megan Godfrey), the entrapped objects in the castle who longed to return to their human form when the spell was broken, added a great deal.  The clock (Cogsworth played by Callum Moffat) , candlestick (Lumière – Mark O’Reilly) wardrobe (Madame de la Grande Bouche – Dresden Goodwin), teapot (Mrs Potts – Phyllida Hickish) teacup (Chip – Ruby MacDonald) and feather duster (Babette – Kiera O’Reilly) carried out their roles particularly well, their different characters sharply defined and entertaining.

The groups whirled and twirled smoothly and the wolves were particularly menacing with their fluid advancing, retreating and intertwining. The choreographer Louise Plummer and Music Director Jenny Taylor-Surridge have much to be thanked for.

Abby Cornwell, Lola Macdonald and Sienna Warder played the Silly Girls perfectly while Edward Rees, Jack Gash, Katie Kirkpatrick and Summer Dowling were admirable narrators.

The directors Ben Clarke and Lee ‘Glee’ Sherwood and the remainder of their team must be congratulated for such a fantastic production.

The next Viva production at the Performing Arts Centre in Soham is ‘Brassed Off ‘ 9-11th November 2017 contact: http://www.wegottickets.com

Review of ‘Cambridge Voices’ in the Lady Chapel in Ely Cathedral on Monday 28th August 2017

September 2, 2017

review Ian de Massini 2017Ian de Massini and Cambridge Voices have done it again. There was obviously good reason for this annual concert arranged by Babylon Arts/ ADeC being so popular. The packed audience in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral thoroughly enjoyed yet another Ian de Massini magical experience, one that oozed musical quality, exquisite sonorous voices, and delicious full-blooded harmonies.

The sound of a tolling bell was enough to tell us that we were about to become part of an amazing event as the choir members solemnly moved slowly in file to take their places surrounding us while they were singing. It was mesmerising.

The works these amazing musicians presented included much early church music which relied on the flow of separate parts imitating each other in a multi-faceted fabric that was further enhanced by the acoustic of the building. The clarity, accuracy and tonal purity of the voices were ideal. Also, the choice of composers was just the ticket – especially Duruflé, for not only was his music designed for high vaults of a church building, he, more than many others, managed to capture the essence of the expressive intention of the words.

Highlights for me included the opening plainsong Procession, ‘Jesus autem transiens’, the unexpected ‘jazzy’ ‘Do what the Spirit says!’, Ian’s arrangement of ‘Panis Angelicus’, ‘Messe de Requiem’ by Duruflé and  Widor’s ‘Toccata’ from Organ Symphony no. 5 arranged to include voices by our own David Willcocks who was not unknown to Ely Cathedral in the past. The ‘Pie Jesu’ in Duruflé’s Requiem was also delightful, featuring the rich, resonant voice of mezzo soprano Lucy Taylor, a splendid ‘cellist Philippa Jones and the highly skilful organist Christopher Saward.

The whole splendid event was a result of the talented and phenomenal Ian de Massini who obviously lives and breathes music and who arranged much of the music making this whole event a splendid 30 years’ celebration.

for more information contact: http://www.cambridge-voices.org.uk/

or http://www.babylonarts.org.uk/

 

Review of ‘The Dreaming’ in the Hayward Theatre, Ely on Thursday 3rd August 2017

August 5, 2017

Inspired by Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, the production of ‘The Dreaming’ presented in the Hayward Theatre last week was amazing. The logistics of combining two of the most renowned theatre groups in the area, Viva and King’s Ely, must have been challenging enough, but creating successfully such a believable world of fantasy and reality with stage limitations in preparation for appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe, took sheer genius. Director Jeremy James Taylor (pictured), founder of The National Youth Music Theatre, is indeed a weaver of magic. With producers Dan Schumann (Viva  pictured) and Nick Huntingdon (Kings Ely -pictured) the show transported us into a world of contrasts, from the genteel superficiality of the well-to do, hilarious light-hearted comedy, to manic mayhem and sinister undertones that foretold the brutality and cruelty of the First World War with the loss of the lives of so many young men, men who were never to have the children of the next generation. .

This was no ‘youth production’. It was first class theatre. The acting, singing, dancing and orchestral accompaniments were superb. The magic of this show was no frivolous affair, but a robust, potent, primeval stabbing into the darkness of the unknown. Fantastic choreography (by Jessica Clifford and Chris Cuming) and clever stage direction moved the drama from scene to scene in a continuous, energetic flow, shifting seamlessly from poignant solo to the astounding, often frenzied, actions of the Boy and Girl Woodlanders.

Key characters stood out, their respective personality traits strongly and credibly displayed. The confident Jack, a blacksmith’s boy (Crobin Abassi) played a pivotal part in the typical Shakespearian-type mistaken identity and resulting comedy. Hilarious scenes of lovers and unrequited lovers in battle, the bunch of simple local folks endeavouring to put on a first class play of their own but not necessarily succeeding, and a touch of fervent patriotism with St George and the Dragon effortlessly fell into place, only possible because of such a sustained high standard of direction, performance and skilled team support.

Other particularly memorable individual characters included Angel (Jordan Thorpe), Sylvia (Eloise George), the Villagers: Nick Cheek (Ben Clark), Reverend Herbert Plum ( David Tickner), Jess Dunn (Freddie Bowles), Walter Grub (Pierre Taffara-Cox) Bob Fry (Peter Crussell) and Seth Wilmot (Steven Beach) and the lovers: Alexander (Joseph Beach), David Swan (Daniel Lane), Charlotte Matthews (Riley Williames) Jennifer Farthing (Zara Minns), Henrietta (Kerry Hibbit) and Julian (Max Bovington).

It will be no surprise if this marvellous production is highly successful in the Edinburgh Fringe on the 11th and 12th of August 2017.

 

Review of a visit to ADeC’s Accessible Cinema and the film ‘Dad’s Army’ at the Maltings, Ely on Thursday 20th July 2017.

July 23, 2017

review Dads Army cinema John Yarrow Allison Morris Brian Brittain Caroline Cawley Ted Coney Lola Howell 2 yPictured is the ADeC team from left John Yarrow, Allison Morris, Brian Brittain, Caroline Cawley, Ted Coney and Lola Howell.

ADeC has taken on board Ely Mayor’s wish for Ely to become a dementia-friendly city and has offered a chance for sufferers and their carers to see a film: ‘Dad’s Army’. The event was entitled ‘Accessible Cinema’ to lose the unnecessary stigma associated with dementia and to the ADeC team’s delight, mums with children took advantage too.

The reviews of ‘Dad’s Army’ the film, I believe, were quite unfair. Even though I had watched many of the episodes on TV and I knew that it would be extremely difficult for other actors to take the place of those we had come to know so well, as far as I am concerned, the film worked. The characters came through well, which was to be expected with such a famous line up. Among the cast were Catherine Zeta-Jones (playing Rose Winters, a femme fatal who enchanted the whole troop), Bill Nighy as the debonair Sergeant Wilson, Toby Jones as a dominant Captain Mainwaring, Michael Gambon as the elderly Private Godfrey, Tom Courtney as Lance Corporal Jones, the enthusiastic butcher, Blake Harrison as Mummy’s boy, Private Pike,  Daniel Mays as the privateer Private Walker, Ian Lavendar as the Brigadier, Bill Patterson as the very Scottish Private Frazer, Sarah Lancashire as the forthright Mrs Pike, Alison Steadman as the sensual Mrs Fox, and Annette Crosby as a Mrs Marple of Walmington-on-sea, Cissy Godfrey. There was a decent plot and a splendid opportunity to witness life in the 40’s.

The event was supported by the British Film Industries’ Film Audience Network. The lights were left on low, there were no adverts or trailers and people were allowed to move about, although I noticed few did.

This was a splendid beginning of a planned series of films presented this way. There will be another opportunity to visit ‘Accessible Cinema’ in the autumn.

for more information contact:

tel: ADeC at the Babylon Gallery, Ely tel: 01353 616991

Review of ‘Wind in the Willows’ at Floods Tavern in St Ives on Thursday 20th July 2017

July 23, 2017

review Wind in the Willows Jon Scott ClarkThere is something quintessentially English about sitting by the bank of a river, watching the world go by. More than this, the play ‘Wind in the Willows’ is an insight into the creative imagination of one particular eccentric English man: Kenneth Graham. The combined effect was sheer magic.

In the presence of the Mayor of St. Ives and a host of VPs, Momentum Theatre Company presented ‘Wind in the Willows’ in the grounds of Floods Tavern with a most picturesque back drop of the Great Ouse River flowing gently by with grassy fields stretching beyond.

All the well-known and well-loved characters were there in this adaptation. Toad (played by Oliver Scott) the ‘big boned’ but never ‘fat’ amphibian simply adored motor cars, or anything that happened to be in fashion. He was doomed to failure as he launched himself into his new hobby and his kind friends, the timid Mole (Sian Eleanor Green), the upper-crust Ratty (Charles Ruhrmund) and the wise old Badger (Adrian Osman) came to the rescue.  Other memorable characters were the snobbish horse, Gerald, play by the director himself, Jon-Scott Clark (pictured) and James Thompson the remarkable, singing rabbit.

The baddies were sneaky weasels (represented by Samantha Clark) and the evil queen (Hannah Ponting) and with frequent appearances of the police and their amazingly mobile police cars, the delightful story unfolded.

The set was incredible, one small stage becoming different character’s homes, the Wild Wood, the train station, the open road, the river bank or Toad Hall. This excellent adaptation by Bryan Hodgson, with original music by Matt Harvey provided a splendid night’s entertainment in an ideal environment. Let there be more, I say.