Review of Cambridge Chorale’s concert ‘A Sense of the Divine’ in the Lady Chapel Ely Cathedral on Saturday 2nd March 2019

March 3, 2019

The title of this concert was most fitting and the Lady Chapel was the perfect place for this marvellous choir to perform. Under the expert baton of Owain Park, the choir’s meticulous concern for clear, precise focus on the sheer beauty of sound created a concert of the purest quality. There are very few choral groups that can reach such perfection.

The varied programme included works by Ralph Vaughan Williams, William Henry Harris, Charles Villiers Stanford, Judith Weir, Einojuhani Rautavaara, Thomas Tallis, G.P. da Palestrina, John Tavener, Hildegard von Bingen, Gerda Blok-Wilson, C.H.H. Parry, Eric Whitacre and the conductor, Owain Park. These pieces ranged from the 11th to the 21st century and the variety of styles and voice ranges required created a huge challenge that this amazing choir met with sophisticated ease.

Highlights for me were ‘Silence and Music’ by Ralph Vaughan Williams, ‘Faire is the Heaven’ by William Henry Harris, ‘Evening Hymn’ by Einojuhani Rautavaara, ‘Sicut Cervus’ by Palestrina, ‘O Little Rose’ by Gerda Blok-Wilson and ‘Beati quorum via’ by Owain Park.

Serenity, cohesion and harmonic balance were immediately evident in the opening ‘Silence and Music’ by Ralph Vaughan Williams, whereas in the following piece,  ‘Faire is the Heaven’ by William Henry Harris, we were entranced by the music’s attractive cheerfulness and contrasting moments of excitement. A sense of character and courageous melodic expansion using an amazing range in the voices pervaded ‘Evening Hymn’ by Einojuhani Rautavaara. Singing  ‘Sicut Cervus’ by Palestrina in the Lady Chapel and its renowned lengthy echoes made it easy for us to be transported in time back to the 16th century when this music was first performed in the ornate cathedrals of Italy. Works for male voices only are usually on the macho -bombastic style, but in ‘O Little Rose’ by Gerda Blok-Wilson, the male voices of Cambridge Chorale sang with tenderness and beauty – a most enjoyable and rare treat. ‘Beati quorum via’ by Owain Park was a sophisticated reference to Stanford’s earlier version and Owen’s piece and was a very impressive modern, full-blooded and expressive work of variety and interest.

The final ‘Her Sacred spirit soars’ by Eric Whitacre with its amazingly powerful climaxes was a fitting ending to this superb concert and the encore by ‘Heavens Flock’ by Ērics Ešenvalds was certainly well deserved.

Cambridge Chorale next perform at Trinity College Chapel on the 18th May 2019. For more information contact







Comment: Grey areas are only for cowards.

February 23, 2019

So many times we contact companies, authorities or legal firms for a clear definition of what is and what is not allowed according to terms and conditions, laws, or current regulations. Many times we are fobbed off with: ‘Oh, it’s a grey area’, suggesting that no one knows.

When terms and conditions, regulations and laws are installed, it seems certain that the people responsible did not intend them to be referred to as indecisive grey areas. If, on the other hand, the authoritative figures we approach were to say, ‘It depends on how you interpret current law’, this would be at least the start of a reasonable reply. To answer our queries fully, they would then need to reply more fully, for example: ‘if the following statement in the regulation/law means this, then that means you will/will not be able to do what you intend’.

So many times when we use the internet, we are inclined to click on the required box to say we have read the pages and pages of small print, when we have not. Some of us think that no matter how carefully we read the whole document, when it comes to making claims, we are often refused. The other party is likely to say we have disobeyed one of the conditions, when we know we have not. So many times we know we are in the right, but either the law is an ass, or someone we are negotiating with has the bull-headed arrogance to believe that the more they shout the more successful they will be, even if they know they are in the wrong.

It took me eighteen months to get only part of an insurance claim back on damaged luggage once. As the law stands, if you have lovely huge trees in your garden, even with protection orders, and the neighbour chooses to build a flimsy construction next to one of the trees and the structure then suffers subsidence, the tree owner has to cut down the trees and pay for the privilege of doing so. This seems to be the law in the UK; it has nothing to do with common sense and fair play.

At times I have asked the companies I have approached what specific parts of their terms and conditions mean. The people answering these questions are often new recruits who have no idea and I am still left in the dark and am expected to sign up without this clarification. What should happen is that my questions are given to someone who does know and are answered fully or the language of the terms and conditions are clarified. It took the tax man three months to give a reply to my questions some time ago, and even then, my questions were no fully answered. Important points were ignored.

It is time we had clarity and complete information given by people who bother to find out what the true facts are, not incompetence and fudging by lazy people who hide behind grey areas.

Comment: ‘I want, does not get’.

February 17, 2019

Many of us learned as children that just because we want something, it does not follow that we will, or should, get what we want. One may want to live in a castle, but as we well know, it is very unlikely to happen to many of us.

Recently, a young girl left home against her parents’ and her country’s will, to join known terrorists in a far off land. She was not kidnapped and while she may have been persuaded to go, she certainly did not have to leave her home for her new terrorist cause.

Recently, she wanted to come back to the UK to have her baby. Unfortunately for her, she has apparently already given birth so the need is probably not so urgent.  However, the presumption that because she wanted to come home, she should, remains, and the question of what to do about all the other British citizens who rejected their British origins and code of behaviour to join the terrorists and now want to come home still remains.

In addition, President Trump has dared to declare a State of Emergency simply because he has been unable to get what he wants – funding for his wall between the USA and Mexico.

While it is tempting to say that they have made their beds so they should lie in them, this offers no solution. If we are to remain human, we should feel some compassion for those who are suffering and perhaps go some way towards understanding why someone wants something. However, this also does not mean that we should give in immediately to people who say what they want and expect it. The solution lies in improving the situation where they are. The refugee camp in Syria should be made more habitable and hygienic for the refugees. Trump should be persuaded not to be so impatient and be ready to save up for his project while still seeing to the other needs of his citizens.

There has probably never been a time when war hasn’t been waged in some part of the world. War is destructive but when the ideology of a people is to kill outsiders, to deny people’s human rights or to injure and maim them for the slightest misdemeanour, someone somehow has to make a stand against them. If the world authorities really wanted to, they could alleviate much of the suffering that exists now and has done for years. What is missing is a strong will to act and to act selflessly. It is time the world authorities made an effort to make a real difference and not rely on charities many of which are bravely trying to tackle the problems alone.

Comment: social media and religious communities are not competitors for our beliefs.

February 9, 2019

A Church of England bishop in England has said that it is a ‘delusion’ that social media can replace religious communities. This was in response to the news that more people have been shown to use social media (including Facebook) than those who are Christians. (Yet again, this information was presented in the press as a sensational headline, designed to create controversy.)

What is stopping those who use social media as well as their Christian connections to socialise and gain a sense of communal support? How many of the numbers collected are both users of social media AND members of a religious community?

I am not the one to lecture on what social media and religion does for everyone, I can only comment personally, just as the bishop above may have done.  We are all members of the one race. Few would say that we do not need others’ help. In nearly everything we do we need support in the form of sympathy, understanding and moral guidance. We need to have faith in our lives; we need to believe that there is hope for a better world than the one we have now and both social media and a religious community can have a role to play.

In both forms of communication, there are the goodies and the baddies. This is a fact of life. On social media there are people who say unkind things, who always complain and find fault. In many religious communities there appear to be many people who claim to be true Christians, for example, which we assume means that they love others as much as they love themselves, but by their actions they seem to be far from Christian. History has demonstrated that over the centuries religion has been no more than an excuse for violence.

On the other hand a quick comment on a social media platform asking for help and advice is often answered quickly with very helpful and supportive comments. With a decent website, and within a close community of believers, a religion can also offer the same. The more support we feel we are getting, whether from social media or a religious community, the more we can develop a strong faith, beit in ourselves, our world and our world of the future or in a supreme being.

Perhaps there is one way in which religious communities may be said to be better than social media and this is the close personal contact with other people offered and the spiritual bond that may develop. We all know how frustrating it is when the internet suddenly goes slow and the meaningful conversation we are trying to have with our loved ones is interrupted.

Whatever the case, what really matters, is on how we integrate with others, whether on social media or in a religious community.  Numbers have little to do with it.



comment Combatting our dark side

February 9, 2019

Recently a famous actor revealed a dark time in his life when he found out that a friend of his had been raped by a ‘black man’. He admitted that for about a week he spent his time wandering the streets ready to seek revenge by attacking and even killing the first black man to antagonize him. He did not care who the man was, where he came from and his circumstances. He had an overwhelming feeling of destruction. Fortunately after a time, he suddenly realized how wrong it was and asked himself what on earth he was doing. He stopped himself in time.

This has horrified many people who have immediately railed against him as an out and out racist. While this reaction is understandable, note should be taken that this brave human being has had the courage to speak out openly about a time of his life when he wrongly wished harm on others. He had not thought the situation through; he had not applied common sense. He declares that he is not a racist, for if a white man had raped his friend, he would have sort out a white man on whom he would administer his revenge.

We all have moments that, in hind sight; we have behaved in a manner of which we are ashamed. Most of us will not have had an experience like this actor’s, but there are few people who have never made a mistake or had a dark moment.

It is time we calmly and sensibly looked at the darker side of these mistakes, even though some may be horrific, and use the information to help us understand the ghastly events that still occur. For example, we learn of people being attacked by a stranger in the street for no apparent reason. We need to understand and deal with it, not blindly decry the person and situation without thought. Doing this displays our own lack of wisdom.  The more we understand what causes the ills of today, the more we can alleviate them.

There is much talk of the lack of support for people who have mental illness. A number of mentally ill people have been known to attack others. They are not thinking straight. It is a mental health doctor or nurse they need, not a riotous population cursing them. This is not condoning their actions, it is simply stating that they need to be incarcerated for their own good and we need to establish many more ways of dealing with these people. Leaving them to their own devices and leaving the society he or she lives in to deal with the problem is not the answer but unfortunately that seems to be the way these days. It is time for change.

‘Hairspray’ by WADS (Witchford Amateur Dramatic Society)

February 3, 2019

WADS (Witchford Amateur Dramatic Society) are at it again. A host of local people has been rehearsing since last September to produce a fantastic show. Each year it seems to get better and better. The hard work has really paid off for what I witnessed at the final rehearsal of ‘Hairspray’ on Sunday was a mass of locals of all ages having a great time while providing a show of considerable quality and vitality. It is no wonder some of the nights are already fully booked. The show, ‘Hairspray’ will be on in Witchford Village College 7, 8 and 9th February 2019.

Pictured are the Director/Producer Lucy Short, the Musical Directors Naomi d’Cunha and Jonathan Carter and Sammy Web  (playing Tracey) and Abi Barker (Penny).


Review of ‘Separate Tables’ by Viva Theatre on Thursday 31st January 2019 t the Methodist Church in Soham.

February 3, 2019

Viva Theatre’s production of ‘Separate Tables’ by Terence Rattigan was splendid. It takes real skill, huge talent and a well crafted script to hold an audience captive for hours and this play did more than this, it explored in depth the human psychological condition.

Each character rang true and their mix created fascinating, sometimes volatile scenes. Their personality weaknesses were painfully revealed and as the play progressed, they became stronger and more able to cope with the world. The hotel, a place where strangers meet, provided a most fitting backdrop for events for above all the utter loneliness of the characters was a major theme in the play. This was made evident by some excellent acting. There were many times when the characters appeared to be doing or saying little, yet we all knew that under their calm façade, high emotions broiled. We were held transfixed.

John Malcolm (portrayed magnificently by Rob Barton) was the passionate journalist inclined to drink too much, and be violent. His ex-wife Anne Shankland (Jenny Tayler- Surridge) was almost an exact opposite: elegant and frustratingly aloof.  In spite of the love forlorn Manageress of the hotel, Pat (Chloe Grimes), John and Anne played their relationship out fully until it was finally satisfactory resolved.

The down-to earth spinster Miss Meacham was played admirably by Kirsten Martin. Major Pollock (Rowan Maulder) began as a flamboyant character that was almost too good to be true. This was proved to be the fact and he was finally persuaded to be more courageous and just be himself. His friend Sibyl (Kerry Hibbert), a frightened mouse of a girl, brow-beaten by her domineering mother Mrs Railton-Bell, finally stood up to her bully at the end of the play. Many of the Major’s lies were found out by the quiet wisdom of retired teacher Mr Fowler (David Tickner). Katie Nolan made her character Mrs Railton-Bell truly bossy, scandal mongering and inclined to pretend to be kind, while driving the knife into her victimes’ backs. The hotel residents came good in the end and refused let her have the Major removed from the hotel because of his indiscretions. Her reliance on her gossiping pal Lady Matheson (Anthea Kenna) foundered. The lively Jean (Danielle Swanson) and the forbearing Charles (Scott Robertson) added spice and humour to the mix.

As in any hotel, there was also the staff whose mannerisms were familiar even today sometimes loud, nosey and petulant: Doreen (Sarah Shorney), Mabel (Kate Weekes) and Janet (Julie Kowalczyk). The casuals, Rev. Colin Watkins and Bernie Watkins were a most fitting addition to the case.

Congratulations to Director, Mary Barnes and team for a wonderful production.

comment Sensationalism is not News.

January 27, 2019

Sensational headlines seem to be required by all newspapers. It is thought that the more sensational the message, the better. Many times, an individual who has broken the law is rightly reported and their subsequent punishment is also rightly detailed. However, it seems that lately it is more than reporting the facts that is required. The individuals and their misdemeanours are sensationalised. They are portrayed as the most wicked people in the world acting grossly against others. The plan is probably to whip up people’s feelings and opinions so that they will be driven to write in to the newspaper to express their venom. A cycle of who can destroy the individuals’ lives with vindictive words is generated and the frenzy is intensified as the competition increases.

Is this the behaviour of a civilised society? I think not. It is time the media realized that there is a difference between reporting the facts and stirring up the emotions with exaggerated, in-your-face accusations. It has been reported that Tesco’s, for example, is making changes to its organization. The headlines scream that thousands of jobs could be lost. The word to focus on here, is ‘could’. While the statement may eventually prove to be true, by saying jobs could be lost confirms that the reporter does not really know for a fact that this will happen. The reporter is expressing an opinion, not giving us the detail. In addition, this opinion can have devastating effects. It is common knowledge that in business, if a certain firm is denigrated by the media, shares in the business will fall, people will avoid using it and more than likely, they will bite the dust. It is almost as if we, as a people, revel in sneering at the fallen.  More useful would be a plain description of the facts with additional background information about how such events come about,  or the circumstances that make it possible for them to happen, what can be done to stop them and the current statistics relating to such actions.

Further to this, while we wait for new information in ‘the News’, time and again, the same information is repeated, not once but twice or even over a number of days. While some of us appreciate a different slant on the same material, repeating exactly what had been said before becomes tiresome and it is definitely not ‘news’. So much is happening around us: people are born, have successes or failures, get married, or divorced, die – yet it only appears that only one or two people have had anything happen to them at all and that is just because they are famous.

Let’s stop the sensationalism and let’s have some real news.

Comment: Why are there two kinds of charity?

January 20, 2019

Once upon a time the word ‘charity’ meant one thing: helping others who are needy. Now there seems to be two kinds of charity: one genuine one when we help disadvantaged people and another that is no more than an extension of the corporate businesses that seem to be saturated with money with very little of it reaching those who really need it.

A newspaper recently contained an article which suggested if we wish to be happy we should help someone else. The reward we get from feeling as if we have done some good is reward enough and there are many people who will vouch for this.

Then there are the people and the businesses that claim to be charitable but it seems, in the eyes of the receivers, they fall short of the mark. Some people and businesses do charity to make themselves important in the eyes of others, rather than to offer real help to those who need it..

One local remembers a volunteer in a hospital. The local was stuck in the place for some time. Her father in another country far away was dying. She was anxious to be able to speak to him, but there were no phones in the ward and she had no mobile phone. When the volunteer asked what she could do, the local asked if the volunteer could get a voice recorder so that the local could send a message to her father so that he could at least hear her voice. The local would willingly pay all costs. The volunteer decided that that was not her job. How helpful is that?

Another example was the voluntary organization that offers help to people in need. A local needed someone from this organization to visit him when he got home from hospital after having had a serious operation. The local was told by the allocated person from the organization that she was going away on holiday so she couldn’t come. The patient wondered why the prospective visitor did not go back to the organization to get someone else to come instead. Once again it seems it ‘was not her job’.

The final crunch comes when individuals or small newly-formed organizations make legitimate requests for funds from large charitable organizations. More times than not their requests are refused, not because they do not need help, but because they do not fit the required criteria which often includes providing half the money first, or proving that their request is justified with facts and statistics that only the organization has.

It is time we were all more charitable in the true sense of the word.


Let’s face it, age comes to us all.

January 12, 2019

If we were to believe the newspapers and magazines these days, especially after the New Year, we would believe that all we had to do was to eat the right things, exercise and use our brains and we would be immortal.

Sad to say, we all know that this is not true. No one is immortal; age comes to all of us. Even Andy Murray, the star of Wimbledon, has had to admit that his body is aging and that he would be wise to stop punishing himself with high powered tennis matches that cause him hip pain. It is time for him to face up to his physical limitations and enjoy the life he has with his family.

This is something that could benefit us all. No matter how much we exercise, diet and use our brains, we cannot stop the process of aging. Instead of exhorting us to change our lives drastically, we should be encouraged to accept our bodies as they are.

We should all take note of the twinges that we feel as we age and react only to these. If our back starts to trouble us, then and only then, should we start to take measures to alleviate the symptoms. If people do not do the exercises that they have been given by their physiotherapists as part of their therapy for alleviating back pain, they know the pain will only get worse. With the right exercises, back pain can be managed and sufferers can live with the symptoms, continue to walk upright and enjoy a full life for a very long time. I know someone who has managed to do this for over twenty years.

Then, of course, we can all name people who have taken on board all the suggestions newspapers and magazines have thrown at them and have died, some a very premature death. I witnessed a close friend of mine frantically doing all he crosswords he could on a daily basis but it made no difference; he still succumbed to dementia at a very early age.

What we should all do is to accept that our bodies will let us down, and that we can maintain a happy, healthy lifestyle that we can enjoy if we address our specific problems, not try to follow some stringent routine a stranger has suggested. If we love a Mediterranean diet, learning a new language and exercising, then we should do these things, but if we hate them, we should try a little but not give up on what we most enjoy.

Life is to be lived and enjoyed. It should never be a test of endurance and suffering.