up and coming singer Lana Bruce

June 23, 2017

Watch out for an up and coming singer Lana Bruce, daughter of the well-known novel writer Alison Bruce. I’ve heard four of her compositions and they are delightful. She has a lovely sweet voice, too.


special visit to care home

June 21, 2017


On Tuesday 20th June patients in Heron House, Aria Court Care Home, March, Cambridgeshire, had an unusual visitor. Colin Harris (Tweed to his friends) and his wife Liz arrived in a 1946 MG sports car. The letters MG stands for Morris Garages.  Morris was just one of several independent car makers in Britain making family saloons and light goods vehicles. Colin says ‘As with all old things, they need a fair amount of TLC and maintenance but that is part and parcel of the attraction …. and it beats watching the tele!’

The visit was organized by Rosemary Westwell whose husband is in the care home. She has been visiting her husband there for his birthday annually arriving in unusual forms of transport for the delight of the staff and some of the patients. Previously Rosemary has flown over the care home in a Cessna, arrived on the back of a Harley Davidson motor bike and in a 1927 Alvis. Rosemary began doing this to highlight the needs of her husband and others who are suffering from dementia. In the early days of her husband’s illness she had to fight hard for John’s continuing care, needing the services of a lawyer to win her case. When they won their appeal, Rosemary decided to go public and wrote a novel ‘John Dementia and Me’ which is based on her relationship with her husband John as he gradually succumbed to frontal lobe dementia and which highlights the problems she had to overcome.

Rosemary says ‘Much more needs to be done to support families who have a loved one with the disease. There should be a joined up approach to providing sympathetic and practical assistance immediately after initial diagnosis. It is quite possible with the limited resources that are available, it just needs those in authority to focus primarily on communicating well with those who need their help.’


pictures: 1964 MG sports car at Aria Court, with Colin and Liz Harris or with Rosemary Westwell on board.

Review of Ely Cathedral’s Science Prom on Saturday 17th June 2017

June 18, 2017

What a delightful concert with a difference! An amazing array of very varied music was presented in the ‘Science Prom’ in Ely Cathedral on Saturday. There is no end to Director of Music Paul Trepte’s talent and versatility. Not only were works of first class quality and performance from the Ely Cathedral Choirs, we were treated to a number of very popular songs sung by Ely Choristers , Ely Imps and Ely Cathedral’s Girls’ Choir. ‘Fatty acid biosynthesis’ by Harold Baum to the tune of Men of Harlech was certainly an unexpected pleasure.

To top it off, Prime Brass, a well-known exceptionally talented group of brass players, entertained us with wonderful performances of pieces such as ‘Fly me to the Moon’ by Barry Howard arranged by Tim Redmond, as well as accompanying the choirs magnificently.

Guy Llewellyn’s arrangements certainly caught the spirit of ‘Mars’ (The Planets by Gustav Holst) and ‘Interstellar’ magnificently.

Sarah MacDonald, usually known as director of Ely Cathedral Girls’ Choir, proved herself an excellent pianist and contributed significantly to events. The variations of ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ by Mozart were one of the many delights she played very skilfully.

With genius Edmund Aldhouse at the organ and a thrilling percussion ensemble pieces throbbed with primeval rhythms than evoked the enormity of space and its impact.

Special highlights for me were the opening pieces that immediately provided the ‘wow’ factor: ‘Sunrise’ Also sprach Zarathustra (2001: A Space Odyssey) by Richard Strauss and Guy’s arrangement of ‘Mars’ first performed in this concert.  The excruciating thrill of the high voices in Ron Grainer’s arrangement of ‘Dr Who’, the eerie accompaniment of wine glasses in ‘Stars’ by Ēriks Ešenvalds, and the finale when all joined in ‘Space Oddity (‘Ground control to Major Tom’ by David Bowie arranged by Paul Trepte were phenomenal.

However, the crowning moment must be when the stage was invaded by the daleks from the Dr Who television series and they interrupted proceedings by threatening the conductor Paul Trepte and were only appeased when he invited them the join in the conduction. The sight was unforgettable!

A  future occasion when you will have the opportunity of hearing some of these amazing musicians will be on The Fest Day of St. Etheldreda on Sunday 25th June: 1030 am Festal Eucharist and 4 pm Festal Evensong and Procession.

Review of Viva’s production of ‘Dad’s Army’ at the Brook, Soham on Thursday 15th June 2017

June 18, 2017

Viva’s production of ‘Dad’s Army’ was splendid. The atmosphere of the times in the World Wars was cleverly created with video screen, props, scenery, an amazing collection of very familiar music from the times and, best of all, the characters that we know and love from the TV series of ‘Dad’s Army’. They were all there and even though it is extremely difficult to replicate the idiosyncrasies of particular people seen regularly by people on screen, this fine cast managed it very well.

Frazer’s outlandish prejudice against anything English, Pike’s perky comments and naivety, Wilson’s suave charm, Mainwaring’s determination to make a motley group of people succeed, Godfrey’s elderliness, Jone’s over excitement and fantastic imagination, a devious u-boat captain and lovely ladies who definitely looked the part and interrupted the gentle flow of events beautifully all helped make a wonderful show.  These characters were played by Geoff Fisher (Frazer), James Crussell (Pike), Rowan Maulder (Wilson), Rob Barton (Mainwaring), Vaughan Moll (Godfrey), David Tickner (Jones) and David Blyth (U-boat captain). Other vital members of the cast included Chloe Grimes (playing Mrs Pike), Sara Boor (Mrs Fox), Emma Gilbey (Ivy Samways), Kerry Hibbit (Edith Parish), Vicki Jelleyman (Mrs Hart), Mary Barns (Mrs Gray), David McCalpin (Private Sponge), Scott Robertson (Private Walker), Jenny Tayler-Surridge (Miss Ironside), Justine Whitworth (Mrs Prosser), James Wood (The Colonel), and piano accordion player Rob Heaven.

There were many other highly amusing characters and events that stood out including an excitable verger (Keith Gallois), a forthright Hodges (Andy Gillett), and the Town Clerk (David Moat) who appreciated women very much.

Particular highlights for me were the scene when Jones and Frazer came to blows during the Morris dancing, the inevitable ‘Don’t tell him Pike’ scene, the ‘Andrews Sisters’ singing Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy and a future ‘Vera Lynn’ singing ‘We’ll meet again’ at the end. They were wonderful.

Many members of the cast adeptly played numerous roles. The concert party and u-boat crew were essential groups that also included Sammy Williams and Judith Collingswood (concert party) and Lawrence Whitworth (u-boat crew).

Every innuendo of the script was deliciously explored and had the audience laughing in their seats. Congratulations must go to the director Frank Cosby and his team for this splendid production which provided a jolly good evening’s entertainment. Other Viva productions to enjoy include ‘The Bakewell Bake Off’ and ‘The Departure Lounge’ at The Brook, Soham on Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd July 2017. For tickets contact: vivayouth@hotmail.co.uk


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 boxoffice@elycathedral.org

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 http://www.kdtheatre.co.uk

Review of ‘Cats’ by the King’s School Junior School on Friday 24th March 2017

March 26, 2017

What an amazing production! The King’s School Ely Junior School gave a splendid performance of ‘Cats’ by Andrew Lloyd Webber in the Hayward Theatre on Friday. I’d been to see the show in London many years ago, and, frankly, I preferred this performance. The forty or so cats that stretched and moved about the stage in a particularly believable feline fashion, the genuineness of the chief characters and the fantastic music in the Junior School production were just the ticket.

With amazingly effective make up and costumes, these performers presented the array of feline characters splendidly, exhibiting not only their varied personalities, but with superb singing they brought out their inner feelings magnificently.  From the jazzy and sexy numbers to the emotional pull of ‘Memory’ these cats kept us transfixed.

The choreography was astonishing and the lithe suppleness of the cast kept us in awe. Cartwheels, doing the splits, tap- dancing, you name it, it was there in one highly entertaining, cohesive production.

Imaginative stage scenery also helped to set the mood well.

Director Kathryn Sudbury, Choreographer Natasha Hobbs and Musical Director Neil Porter-Thaw and their teams are to be congratulated for a fantastic show. It is quite easy to understand why it ended with a spontaneous standing ovation!


Review of ‘Any Major Dude’ in the Cambridge Picturehouse 20th March 2017

March 21, 2017

Up and coming writer/producer John Holdsworth, in conjunction with Peter Tomalin,  has created a real gem. This low budget film captures the idiosyncrasies of village people in delightful, hilarious scenarios and as gardening journalist Colin Coombs deals with an array of negative life events that seem to be trying to bring him down, we experience his struggle and the irritation of friends who pull no punches.  We share with Colin the angst he has when he thinks his wife Freya wants to go back to her ex:  Gordon ‘Midge’ Midgely.  This film captures the essence of village characters, some of the most memorable, the jovial unnerving doctor, the new neighbours who get the wrong end of the stick, and precocious children who excel where the adults fail.  The plot builds us up to great expectations, our hearts in our mouth as we fear Colin and his friends will make  fools of themselves when the new band they have formed perform badly at Freya’s 40th birthday party , but the twist in the tale makes a  perfect ending.   A brilliant cast gave us an authentic taste of village life with sincere and credible acting. Director Sean Baker with John Holdsworth are to be congratulated for a fantastic film, a film that gives us a jolly good laugh for a change. Let there be more, I say.

Review of ‘Legally Blonde’ by Viva at the Brook, Soham on Thursday 2nd March 2017

March 3, 2017

Viva dazzled us yet again with another vibrantly energized musical production in the Brook last night. It was fantastic! ‘Legally Blonde’ was no simple story about a blonde girl proving her worth, it was packed with humour, pathos and easily identifiable characterizations as blonde girl becomes a lawyer learning many home truths on the way.

The music was first class, all singers and instrumentalists producing clear, resonant and wholesome sounds enhancing the plot beautifully while excellent acting, slick staging, glitzy choreography, credible costumes and subtle and effective lighting had us spellbound.

Ellie (played by Riley Williams) portrayed this leading part perfectly making a wonderful debut with Viva. She was indeed the stunning face of feminine feminism. The men in her life, Warner (Dan Lane) and Emmett (Ben Clark) were equally well rounded characters:  Warner the wimp from the past: Emmett the stalwart friend waiting in the wings for her to realize he was where her heart should lie. The cold-hearted egotist Callahan (Joseph Beach) contrasted excellently with Paulette (Eleanor Gillet), the emotionally-driven, moral supporter to Ellie. With Ellie’s excellent doe-eyed hankering and Paulette’s outrageous sexual shimmering we were left in no doubt whom they desired. I’ve never seen such a sexy delivery man before the UPS man (Lee Sherwood) strutted the stage. He made a larger-than-life gay lover to the untruthful witness Yuri (Jack Wright) too. The exercise motivator Brooke (Hannah Schumann), another strong character and the essential Greek Chorus were additional treats. Space prevents me from mentioning all the other superb members of the cast, suffice to say, they all contributed magnificently to one of the best Viva productions I’ve ever seen! Director and Producer Dan Schumann and his team are to be congratulated for such a wonderful evening.

As all evening shows were soon booked out, you are advised to book early for their next production ‘The Dreaming’ in the Hayward Theatre, Ely 3-5th August 2017.

contact vivayouth@hotmail.co.uk 01353 722228

Review of the Valentine’s Concert in Ely Cathedral on the 11th February 2017

February 12, 2017

The Valentine’s Concert in Ely Cathedral on February 11th was the eighth annual visit by Warren  Mailley-Smith and co musicians and it was one of the finest.

Warren Mailley-Smith (piano), Pavlos Carvalho (cello), Lucy Jeal  (violin) and

(soprano) gave us a splendid evening of romantic music that not only stirred the heart strings but amazed us with their technique and ability to bring out the musical qualities of the pieces they chose. The   compositions were by no means easy and the way in which the three instrumentalists demonstrated  such clarity and virtuosic skill was phenomenal. No matter how difficult the passage, these three excellent musicians synchronized perfectly. Susan Parkes (soprano) added to the wonderfully romantic spirit of the evening with her collection of songs at the end of the programme.

In Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight’ Sonata, Warren played with accomplished fluency that comes with experience and insight, bringing out sonorous key melodies exquisitely and adding new qualities to this very famous piece.

The highlight of the evening for me, Rachmaninov’s ‘Sonata for Cello in G minor’, played by Warren and Pavlos, was magnificent. While demonstrating amazing technique and empathy for the music, these fine performers maintained Rachmaninov’s romantic melancholy and nostalgia well while reminding us of their tremendous agility and expressive capability in the more joyous passages.

Elgar’s ‘Salut d’amour’ was a must for the programme and Lucy played it beautifully on her violin.

Mendelssohn’s ‘Piano Trio in D minor’ was positively charming while Susan’s songs left us in no doubt that this was indeed a celebratory concert. The songs included Puccini’s ‘O mio babbino’, ‘Morgen’ by Strauss, ‘Je veux vivre’ by Gounod and ‘Habañera’ by Bizet. In the moments when her beautiful voice was focused, the sound was exhilarating.

What a delightful evening!