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Review of Ely Choral Society’s ‘A Night at the Opera’ in the Hayward Theatre on Saturday 13th July 2019 for the Isle of Ely Arts Festival.

July 16, 2019

Ely Choral Society has firmly established a reputation for putting on a good concert and tonight’s event was no exception. The Choral Society choir was in full voice, coming up to the mark and fulfilling every different requirement of the pieces in this varied programme. Be it a beautiful tone, precise short, sharp notes, or fluent, smooth phrasing –under the directorship of Andrew Parnell, the choir mastered all when required.

Singing with them tonight was the delightful youth choir and some splendid soloists: Rebecca Duckworth (soprano), Tara Bungard (soprano) and Mark Hounsell (tenor).

The piano accompanists for the evening were Paul Jackson and Andrew Parnell, the conductor. They were both highly accomplished and Paul was most impressive with his accompanying of ‘The Polovtsian Dances’ which usually requires a full, very active orchestra.

The composers of the works in the programme included Verdi, Engelbert Humperdinck, Mozart, Donizetti, Puccini, Bizet, Mascagni, Beethoven, Delibes, Britten and Borodin – among the most famous opera composers. Many a familiar tune was given credence by these fine performers.

Highlights included The Youth Choir singing ‘Evening Prayer’ from ‘Hansel and Gretel by Engelbert Humperdinck, Mark Hounsell (tenor) singing ‘Una furtiva lagrima’ (A secret tear)  by Donizetti, ‘The Flower Duet’ sung by Rebecca and Tara and the final rousing ‘Polovtsian Dance’ by Borodin. The beauty and charisma or, as in the Polovtsian Dance, the sheet excitement and thrill of the moment were captured splendidly.

In fact the whole evening was one delightful celebration of opera enhanced with interesting background information to the pieces given by the conductor. It was thoroughly enjoyed by the very supportive audience and made a fine contribution to the Isle of Ely Arts Festival. We look forward to their next concert on Saturday the 19th October 2019, 7.30 p.m. in Ely Cathedral featuring, ‘Little Organ Mass’ by Haydn and ‘Requiem’ by Fauré.

For more information about Ely Choral Society contact: www elychoralsociety.org

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Review of A Night at the Movies’ in Ely Cathedral on Friday 12th July 2019 for the Isle of Ely Arts Festival

July 16, 2019

One of the Highlights of the recent Isle of Ely Arts Festival was undoubtedly ‘A Night at the Movies’ in Ely Cathedral on Friday 12th July. In a packed cathedral, a number of choirs of all ages combined with a huge orchestra of local instrumentalists to give us a wonderful concert featuring favourite music from the movies.

There was something for everyone and after opening with the familiar 20th Century Fox Fanfare we were on a roll. Conducted by Chris Parsons, these musicians filled the vaults of the cathedral with robust sound that particularly suited music from ‘The Greatest Show’, ‘Jurassic Park,’ ‘The Lord of the Rings’, ‘633 Squadron’, and James Bond films. I could almost imagine Shirley Bassey booming out the theme with the orchestra as they played ‘Goldfinger’. It was certainly stirring stuff.

There were also moments of magic, poignancy and delight. There was definitely magic in the air when we heard Hedwig’s theme from Harry Potter, ‘Gabriel’s Oboe’ from ‘The Mission’ tugged at the heart-strings, while voices and orchestra revelled in the popular songs from ‘Frozen’ and ‘Aladdin.

Soloists, Betty Jones and Tara Bungard enhanced the songs with their fine, outstanding voices.  Betty’s beaautfiul resonant voice was invaluable in ‘A Million Dreams’, ‘Let it Go’, ‘A Whole New World’ and the final ‘This is Me’. Tara added panache to ‘Skyfall’.

This was a most moving evening and one of the best parts must have been when the primary school children sang their hearts out to ‘Let it Go’ from ‘Frozen’.

There was obviously a lot of hard work that had gone on behind the scenes and Chris Parsons and his team and the Isle of Ely Arts Festival organizers provided us with a unique, memorable evening.

A review of Viva’s ‘A Slice of Saturday Night’ in the Ross Peers Sports Centre on Thursday 11th July 2019

July 16, 2019

Most of us remember being that awkward age of 17, feeling that no one understood what we felt like and believing that we were alone with our worries and problems that were all important at that age.

This production brought all of these thoughts back to us with uninhibited frankness and humour. Nothing, but nothing, was left out. It was amazing how these actors threw themselves into their parts, radiating the sheer rawness of youthful angst and preoccupation with the emotional and physical changes of a teenager. Very little was left to the imagination and topics covered were all-embracing, ranging from falling in love, infatuation, fear, inferiority, looking good and being cool, fibbing to our mates about our sexual prowess or inadequacy, frigidity, respect, betrayal, parental disapproval – it was all there. We could remember it well and there may even have been a few people who learnt something new.

The acting, singing and dancing were incredible. We were swept away with the cast’s youthful spirits. We positively lived the highs and lows of the young teenagers and the older bar manager, ‘Rubber Legs’. This amazing cast consisted of Sue, played by Zara Minns, Eric ‘Rubber Legs’ Devine (Joseph Beach), Bridge (Phoebe Noble), Rick (Olly Manley), Sharon (Riley Williames), Gary (Aaron Lord), Penny (Dresden Goodwin), Shirl (Kerry Hibbert), Terry (Ben Clarke) and Eddie (Dan Lane).

The band captured the ‘60’s sounds perfectly with many of the songs very reminiscent of ones that have remained with us over the years. These impressive musicians were:  Joseph (Keyboard), Jordan Ward (guitar) Joel Humann (bass) and Luke Pettit (drums).

Congratulations must go to the director, Joshua Schumann, Musical Director Joseph Hall, Choreographer, Jess Clifford and team for a unique and highly captivating production.

For more information contact: http://www.viva.org.uk.

 

Review of KD Theatre’s production of ‘Sister Act’ in the Maltings, Ely on Saturday 6th July 2019

July 7, 2019

photo Sister Act KD 06-07-19Many of us have seen the film, and we have seen it many times on TV, so why would we want to see it again? It was clear from the start that nothing, absolutely nothing, beats a live show. KD Theatre demonstrated this perfectly.

We were constantly enthralled by the vivacious, gyrating dancers on and off stage with the audience adding just one dimension to a multi-faceted, vibrant production. The original theme of bad girl comes good was still definitely there, but there was much more besides. There was love, hate, fear, courage and narrow-mindedness turning into broadmindedness that the little religious community had never known.

The main characters in the second cast list made their parts their own. Their singing, acting and dancing and that of the groups was right up to the mark. Especially impressive were Doloris (played by Abigail Day), Mother Superior (Lotties White) and her amazing nuns (especially Sister Mary Robert: Emily Wright, Sister Mary Patrick: Kay Pegado, and Sister Mary Lazarus: Emily Rutherford). Also remarkable were the young policeman in love with Doloris: ‘Sweaty’ Eddie (Zak Potis), the bad guy, boyfriend of Doloris: Curtis (Jake Stearne) and his goons  (TJ: Samuel McGuinness Joey: Jacob Stoodly and Pablo: Max Wilson ), the Monsignor O’Hara (Dean Bruce)… In fact, they were all wonderful!

Congratulations must go to the director, Jessica Theobald and choreographers Chloe Jones and Bethany and Issy Pearson and the whole team, for the phenomenal pace, the dazzling drive and the impact of the performers. Producers for KD Theatre Productions ltd, Daniel Bell and Katherine Hickmott were also invaluable elements to this fantastic production.

One of the next events to look forward to is the pantomime Dick Whittington at the Maltings 13th December 2019 to 5th January 2020. For more information: contact http://www.kdtheatre.co.uk tel: 01353 725026.

 

Review of Ely Consort’s concert: ‘Feel the Spirit’ in St Mary’s Church Burwell on Saturday 29th June 2019

June 30, 2019

There is no doubt about it. Ely Consort is an amazing choir. Under the skilled director, Matthew Rudd, this choir demonstrated that it could maintain and develop beautiful, well-managed sounds. We were told that one piece actually had up to 14 parts, but even then, a real sense of control infused the massive sound. This control came from the inherent musicality of the conductor and the choir members.

The programme was varied and impressive. The first half of the programme demonstrated the genuine skill of this phenomenal choir. Some of the works were particularly demanding but the expertise of these singers made light of every challenge. Highlights for me were ‘Live with me and be my love’ and ‘It was a lover and his lass’ from ‘Songs and Sonnets from Shakespeare’ by George Shearing. This music came from modern times and the accompaniment of piano (played by Charlie Penn) and bass (Joel Humann) brought the music alive. The fluidity and charm of ‘Live with me …’ and the light frivolity of ‘It was a lover …’ contrasted splendidly with the gorgeous harmonies of ‘Who is Sylvia?’ and the jagged impact of ‘Fie on Sinful Fantasy’.

Two madrigals from the ‘Triumphs of Oriana’ (Elizabeth 1) were unaccompanied delights from Elizabeth 1’s time and we particularly enjoyed ‘A vesta was from Latmos Hill descending’ after Matthew explained how the composer Thomas Weelkes used word painting within this composition giving it an intriguing mischievous touch.

The climax of the evening came after the interval with John Rutter’s ‘Feel the Spirit’. We certainly felt the spirit with this marvellous performance which included students from Soham Village College. The highlights in this composition for me were: ‘Joshua fit the battle of Jericho’, ‘Steal away’ and the  final spiritual ‘When the saints go marching in’. We were soon in toe-tapping mood with the rousing opening bars of Joshua fit … . I am not ashamed to say the having suffered a recent bereavement, ‘Steal away’ was so beautifully arranged and sung that tears soon came to my eyes. Claire Stevenson  played her clarinet or saxophones magnificently and the joyous improvisatory nature of her contributions to ‘Deep river’ added a ‘wow’ factor. Derek Scurll enhanced the highly attractive rhythms with his drum playing.

This was an excellent concert and we look forward to their next venture in Ely: ‘Cherubini Requiem’ on Saturday 21st March 2020 in Ely Cathedral. Contact info@elyconsort.org.uk  for more information.Matthew Rudd

A review of ‘Verdi’s Requiem’ in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 4th May 2019

May 5, 2019

It is no wonder that this was a popular event and that this Requiem is performed so often. This night’s performance of Verdi’s Requiem given by Ely Sinfonia, the King’s Lynn Festival Chorus and soloists was magnificent. We were treated to all the emotionally-packed aria-like melodic material that we know and love from Verdi’s operas, while at the same time, these amazing musicians drew every ounce of religious fervour, excitement and reverence from the score.

Conducted by Steve Bingham, this fine choir and orchestra were able to present incredible contrasts in expression and volume. The extremely soft moments, especially in the strings, were amazing. Contrasting this, were phenomenal moments of great excitement and climax with the cathedral vaults positively resounding with fantastic voluminous sounds.

There were some particularly effective instants and these included thoughtful reverence in the Introit, spine-chilling, frenetic agony in the recurring Dies Irae (Day of wrath), eerie mystery with the words ‘Liber scriptus proferetur’ and a delightful sense of light permeating ‘Lux aeterna’.

The soloists were Aoife O’Connell (soprano), Freya Jacklin (mezzo soprano), Michael Solomon Williams (tenor) and Laurence Williams (bass). They were wonderful and balanced perfectly, enhancing the score with passionate depth and beauty.

This was a wonderful evening’s concert that brought home how important such heightened music is in our lives and how it creates episodes that reach far beyond reality. Sounds such as these take us away from ordinary humdrum problems that plague our lives at ground level. Everyone should be able to experience such sublime realms of musical genius.

The next event to look forward to is on Saturday 21st September in Ely Cathedral at 7.30 p.m. which will be Ely Sinfonia’s Twentieth Anniversary Concert featuring Martin Roscoe playing Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No 2, Beethoven’s Symphony no. 78 and Mozart’s Symphony no. 29. For more information contact http://www.elysinfonia.co.uk or box.office@elycathedral.org.

 

Comment: A little success can go a long way.

April 7, 2019

Achieving a little success, no matter how small, makes one feel good and encourages us to maintain our interest.  Recently I gave a presentation at a teachers’ conference. I was not holding out much hope that many people would attend and I offered to do it just to keep my hand in and to keep in touch. I decided to draught a mere skeleton of a plan and just be myself, warts and all. To my delight, the room was packed and a couple of people made a point of thanking me profusely for giving them some useful ideas to try in the classroom. This gave me new hope, and I am moved offer to give another presentation next year.

However, it is so easy to take this at face value. This was just one small moment of success which is tiny when compared to the whole scheme of things. There are too many people who have enjoyed a little success like this and have let it go to their heads. Their words are littered with self-praise and there is nothing worse. It will more than likely put us off the person for life. My little effort, I realize, was full of errors. I have many criticisms I can make about my presentation and these I will endeavour to address next time, if I my application is accepted. I realize that most people are kind and sympathetic and thus let my errors go by without a fuss.

The praise I received, however, was enough to remind me how rewarding it is and how I should give much more positive feedback to the students I teach. There is nothing more gratifying than the smile on the face of a student who has succeeded. Again, it may be one small step, for example, simply remembering some vocabulary from a previous English Lesson, but no matter how insignificant it is, success should be congratulated as such.

False praise, on the other hand, achieves little. Both you and the receiver of the erroneous praise know it is false. We all know how even the youngest of children are not stupid and can often see through falsehood. When trying to apply reverse psychology to a four-year -old once, it failed miserably. Telling her she couldn’t do something in the hope that she would rise up and prove she could, failed. She let it be known in no uncertain terms she was not to be manipulated like that.

It seems clear to me that we should praise other people more and ourselves less.

 

 

Comment: The value of music should never be underestimated.

April 2, 2019

Throughout the centuries, music has been an important part of people’s lives. There are few of us who would declare that it is completely unimportant and unnecessary.  Scores of research cases have indicated that music has an important influence on the way we think and feel, yet it is usually at the bottom of our list of priorities, be it a school curriculum or our own everyday lives.

An incident recently brought it home to me how effective music can be when all other means of communication fail. I run a weekly ‘choir practice’ for the residents in my husband’s care home. I ask that he attends even though he has long lost the power of speech. I knew, and know, that he has always liked music. As the weeks passed, I introduced new songs for us all to sing. I often try to communicate with my husband but it is usually not successful. I am not even sure he knows who I am anymore for he has suffered from dementia for over 20 years.

Then one week I decided to assume that I would get through to him. I went up close to him and stood so that he could see and hear me clearly and I sang with the residents, song after song. It was not long before his eyes met mine and they focused so that I knew he knew who I was. He grinned to show that he was really enjoying the music. Not only that, his facial expression changed to show that he was reacting emotionally to the event and to the music in a positive way. To me, this is proof indeed that music is one of the most powerful communicators.

Music has always been important in my life. As a child of non-musical parents it seemed a fluke that I was even interested. Fortunately I was allowed to follow my interest and even make it a career, even though many people thought that there is no future in it. In my case, I turned to teaching and although it had its moments, it certainly gave me a career, and helped to pay a mortgage and bring up a young family.

From personal experience I can testify that as a child learning the piano it not only gave me an outlet for my music, it taught me discipline (when I had to get up at 630 every morning to get my practice in before school), it gave me focus when I had to remember the notes, the fingering and the musical form of the pieces I played while it also gave me a very powerful means of expression to alleviate the teenage angst that I suffered as most people do. It taught me develop stamina and to relax for these are important parts of the technique. Finally, the concerts, performances and choirs I have been involved with provided a social life I would otherwise never have experienced.

So the next time you think music may be a waste of time, I urge you to think again.

 

Review of ‘Witchford’s Got Talent’ in Witchford Village College on Saturday 30th March 2019

March 31, 2019

Witchford Amateur Dramatic Society (WADS) put on a fantastic show in Witchford Village College on Saturday. ‘Witchford’s Got Talent’ was very aptly named for indeed, the show included an amazing array of highly talented people of all ages.

In particular, there were many excellent singers: solos, duets and ensembles. They were often accompanied live by talented guitarists or pianist Greg Lowes . These amazing performers gave us popular songs many of which came from the shows such as ‘Hamilton’, ‘Mary Poppins Returns’, ‘The Little Mermaid’, and ‘Les Miserables’. There were comedy sketches too and a delightful  demonstration of batton twirling by Aaliyah Scrine.

Highlights for me included singers Sammy Webb, Charlie-May  and Zak Wymer, and ‘The Invisible Car’ sketch by Alex Lee, Jack Dyson and Josh Andrews. Q from James Bond films was wonderful as he lost his cool after being fed up with being taken for granted.

The whole show was enhanced by the highly entertaining repartee from the wonderful WADS Witchfords got Talent 30.03.2019 Sarah Boor and Steve Barkercompères Sarah Boor and Steve Barker.

 

comment: It is so easy to knock something down.

March 24, 2019

It is much easier to knock something down than to build it. Every toddler knows this. Some concentration and effort is needed to build a tower of bricks. One quick movement of the hand and the tower will come tumbling down.
This applies to a lot that is happening today. It is so easy to find fault with people and what they do. More often than not, such negative words spring from misunderstandings,wrong assumptions or a hidden agenda.
People from all our different political parties are dismayed at the negative back-biting that has been happening in our parliament recently. It is so easy to simply reject a proposition. It is not so easy to create a reasonable one. When there are two sides to a problem it seems logical that some kind of compromise is required. A compromise only comes from both parties communicating with each other, not from one side summarily dismissing the other. While this may be an over-simplification of the situation, I maintain that it has a valid point.
Email is a medium that can easily lead to misunderstanding. Some time ago, I had written to a friend who had suggested making changes to an arrangement we had made. I had written ‘You can do whatever you like’. I was astonished at the reply which was: ‘There is no need to take that tone with me!’. This was a complete misunderstanding and it certainly tested our friendship.
Criticising others by presenting only one side of the situation can also be misleading. We all must agree that people not attending appointments at the doctor’s, for example, is not right and anyone missing an appointment unnecessarily should be criticised. However when we are greeted with a bold statement that 195 appointments were missed, it does not tell the whole story. How many of these appointments included people who were too ill to phone in to cancel or to make the appointment? How many were the result of patients not being told they actually had these appointments?
One local saw that she could access her medical records online. She made enquiries and was asked to bring her passport and a utility bill showing her address so that the right form could be filled in to be given this access. She went to some trouble to make a special visit to the surgery for this purpose. Sometime later the local received a letter saying that she could not access her medical notes after all. This waste of time was clearly NOT the fault of the patient!
People should get their own act together before passing judgement on others.