Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Review of ‘The Kingdom’ in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 30th November 2019

December 1, 2019

Cambridge University Symphony Orchestra, Leeds Philharmonic Chorus, Faust Chamber Orchestra and soloists: Eleanor Dennis (soprano), Jane Irwin (alto), Ed Lyon (tenor) and Gareth Brynmor John (bass) gave a fine concert on Saturday in Ely Cathedral. The work they performed was the relatively unknown ‘The Kingdom’ by Elgar. Conducted by David Hill these singers and instrumentalists certainly gave the work good measure. Elgar’s splendid composition, complete with many familiar motifs, managed to combine the best of his style in a mature and meaningful way so that we were transported easily from one scene to another, being told once again the story of Jesus and the impact he had on his disciples and the world.

Rarely have I heard such keen orchestration, the sounds selected representing perfectly the sentiments intended.  While the strings were the mainstay, as expected, spreading warmth, tenderness, excitement or pathos as the music required, the woodwind brass and percussion were all in evidence but only when there was a need for them. The timpani, usually a tool to underpin the underlying beat, in this work created a special dark atmosphere

These singers and instrumentalists were so good that we constantly transfixed. The text was brought alive with great depth of feeling. While the drama was not ‘overt’ it was definitely there and deeply powerful. Sounds of joy, reverence, awe, excitement, triumph or gentle peacefulness seamlessly permeated the words making them highly expressive and personal. This was only possible because of the intense musicality of the musicians involved.

This exceptional concert was dedicated to the late Sir Stephen Cleobury.

Autumn Concert in St. Andrew’s Hall Witchford, Monday 21st October 2019

October 27, 2019

Phil and Laurine and the Isle Singers gave an Autumn Concert in St Andrew’s Church Witchford on Monday 21st October 2019. The Isle Singers were accompanied by Peter Kirby.

A number of Autumnal songs were sung. Some of the items included ‘I’ve got my love to keep me warm’, ‘September in the rain’, ‘If I Loved You’, ‘The Ships of Arcady’, Raining in my Heart’, ‘Raindrops keep Falling on my Head’, ‘Misty’, ‘Singing in the Rain’, ‘Pennies from Heaven’ and the ’Irish Blessing’. Different versions of ‘Autumn Leaves’ were sung which showed the amazing difference that arrangements can make to the same song.

Specially prepared refreshments were provided by Sue Crowe and the winner of the £20 prize for October in the Friends of St Andrew’s Church Witchford 200 club draw was Della Allen. To join the 200 club and have a chance to recoup your money in a prize while contributing to a worthy cause, contact

The amount raised for the evening was £110 which will go towards St Andrew’s Church Extension Fund to provide a toilet and refreshment facilities in the church.

The next event for this cause will be the Christmas Fayre on Saturday 2nd November 2019 in St Andrew’s Hall Witchford 1000 – 1400. Entry is free and coffee and biscuits (£2) and a soup lunch (£5) will be available.

While the Isle Singers’ next concert will be their Carol Concert on Tuesday 10th December 4-6 p.m. in St Andrew’s Hall Witchford, the next joint concert for these musicians will be

a Valentine’s Concert in the hall on February 14th 2020.

Review of the concert of Elgar in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 26th October 2019

October 27, 2019

If you were told that the concert you were about to attend had a programme of only one composer, you would be worried that after the first few pieces you would expect to be craving for something different. However, in the concert on Saturday the programme of works by Elgar and no other composer contained such varieties of style, expression and sound that the audience was easily held transfixed throughout the performance.

Works included ‘The Wand of Youth Suite No. 1’, ‘Coronation March’, ’Pomp and Circumstances Marches nos.3 and 5 and Symphony No.1.  The Cambridge Student Symphony Orchestra directed by Simon Armitage really brought the composer’s works alive. At times you could feel a gentle, warm sun on your face in the quintessentially, verdant English countryside.  There were moments when one felt convinced that the composer himself was there, especially when the orchestra revelled confidently in Elgar’s powerful expansive sound. Moods varied significantly from cheerfulness and jauntiness to grandeur or a sense of foreboding as in the first symphony which heralded the Second World War.

Symphony no.1 was indeed the peak of this wonderful concert. In this work particularly, the members of the orchestra demonstrated how they and Elgar could move easily from mood extremes: from sadness, to sinister undercurrents or sheer unadulterated joy. They showed too the capacity to explore the most beautiful and powerful aspects of orchestration in all sections: strings, woodwind, brass and percussion.

This was indeed a splendid event.

It was pleasing to see the famous composer and musician Dr Arthur Wills with his son Colin In the audience. Simon Armitage and Graham Austin and were able to reminisce in the interval for Simon featured in the Ely Arts Festival in the 1980s when Graham was the chair.

Review of Ely Choral Society’s concert on Saturday 19th October 2019 in Ely Cathedral

October 20, 2019

Ely Choral Society, under the directorship of Andrew Parnell, produced wonderful sounds on Saturday night in Ely Cathedral There were great moments of beautiful sonority and cohesion. Word pictures were particularly impressive and contrasts were clearly and meaningfully exploited.

The soloists were Rebecca Duckworth (soprano) and Jonathan Midgley (baritone) and the organist was Glen Dempsey. They were highly commendable with the organist managing the instrument magnificently making it far more expressive than I thought possible.  Rebecca’s delightful tone, clarity and expertise enhanced the concert wonderfully. The baritone, Jonathan Midgley, brought his solos alive with his attention to expression.

The balanced programme included works by Haydn, Fauré, and Mozart. The opening ‘Insanæ et vanæ  curæ’ by Haydn captured the audience’s attention immediately with its powerful and dramatic impact. This was contrasted by the lovely performance of the peaceful and calm ‘Pavane’ by Fauré. Then Jonathan Midgley gave performed ‘Fantasia in F minor’ by Mozart, playing the most rapid of notes with absolute clarity as assurance.  A fine performance of Haydn’s ‘Missa Brevis  S. Joannis de Deo’ (Hob XX11) by Ely Choral Society and the organist lead us to the interval.

The highlight of the evening for me was Fauré’s Requiem that formed the second half of the programme. These first-rate performers captured every sumptuous effect in Fauré’s score making the music exquisite, emotive, dark, mysterious or dramatic as the score dictated.

The was indeed a wonderful concert. The next event by Ely Choral Society will be their Family Carols on Saturday 14th December at St Mary’s Church at 7 p.m.

A verbal promise is not worth the paper it is written on

September 29, 2019

When a child says ‘I promise to be good,’ you and I know that the child really means it and intends to do it. However, we also know that the child, like us, is human and is bound to break this promise, no matter how good his or her intentions have been.

In the world of politics we all understand and often seem to accept that politicians will make all sorts of promises before an election – promises that they fully intend to honour, but once elected, when they try to fulfil their promises, democracy and the will of a lot of other people often thwart them.  This should always be kept in mind when our government and our councils set up bodies to make decisions about the people’s welfare. If a situation is created where there could be obvious bias, the situation should be changed so that even if the members of the groups concerned promise to be unbiased, they will be seen to be so. The situation should be changed so that automatic prejudice is removed.  Promising to be completely fair and open-minded is not enough. As individuals we all have our own preferences and beliefs and suggesting that we would be able to ignore these in our decision-making is unrealistic.

It is often believed that a ‘scientific study’ is unbiased – it is set up so that all efforts have been made to avoid an individual’s bias. However, while human scientists are engaged in such studies, individual prejudices are easily incorporated in the decisions made. At some stage when a scientific interpretation of data is required, the interpretation is bound to be made according to the individual scientist’s way of thinking.  If a study of eating habits in 100 people appears to demonstrate that eating, for example, parsnips, puts on weight, using numbers is not enough. It depends on what the people are like, what their normal metabolic rates are, and what their backgrounds and preferences are.  We all know some people who can eat anything and not put weight on and others who only have to eat a little and the pounds pile on. Similarly, some patients are advised to have red wine for their heart, other are advised they should avoid alcohol. No individual is the same and counting the results in a lot of people is no better that counting pebbles on the seashore maintaining that they are all the same.

We need fewer hollow promises and more indications of preferred ways forward. We need fewer brash statements of what individuals will do because they believe themselves to be all powerful. We need, instead, more statements of aims and persuasive language that encourages support. Only thus will the people affected feel that they have had a say in what happens. Only thus can our democracy be preserved.

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

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:


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 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  for more information.Matthew Rudd