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:



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:

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:



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.


Viva’s ‘The Bakewell Bake Off’ and ‘Departure Lounge’ on Friday 21st July 2017 at the Brook Soham.

July 23, 2017

review The Bakewell Bakeoff Dan SchumannViva is going to take part in the Edinburgh Fringe, a high accolade indeed. As a consequence, the audience this night was treated to two musical plays, both of which will be presented at the Fringe.

The first was the highly amusing ‘The Bakewell Bake Off’ when the township of Bakewell was holding its baking competition. Under the directorship of Dan Schumann and Mary Barnes, the participants were all strong, credible characters: spicy doctor Pradeepta Smith (played by Radha Bilimoria), new boy postman Freddie Twist (David Blyth), sex-changed Henry now Henrietta Apfelstrudel (Frank Crosby), the gawky nun Sister Mary (Chloe Grimes), the promiscuous Tina Tartin (Vicki Jelleyman), health freak Mandy Macaroon (Ruth Lo), Christmas fanatic Holly Berry (Kate Weekes) and unrequited lesbian Flora Drizzle (Sammy Williams).  Mix them together, and what do you get: a hilarious musical comedy further exacerbated by the shenanigans of the three contrasting judges.  These were the easily swayed Suzie Sunflower (Emma Gilbey), the womaniser Hugh Drip (David Moat) and the domineering Griselda Pratt-Dewhurst (Anthea Kenna). Endeavouring to hold everything together was the over-the-top hostess, Victoria Sponge (Sarah Shorney) and adding delightful musical enhancements, was the vocal trio: the Cream Puffs (Kerry Hibbet, Laura Leonard and Sophie Plachcinski). Well crafted stage directions, first rate keyboard accompaniment by Mark Clough and hilarious timing also served to produce a most entertaining show.

‘Departure Lounge’ directed by Joshua Schumann with the cast, was presented after interval and was amazing. Few of us can ever claim to understand the teenage mind; however, I can truthfully say that this play gave me real insight. The Cambridge-born script writer, Dougal Irvine, gave us everything. In what appeared to be a bunch of loud-mouthed hooligans forced to wait in the departure lounge for their plane to take them back to England after an indulgent, drunken week on holiday in Spain, were four distinct characters trying to bond as only a bunch of adolescent teenagers would, while underneath they struggled to overcome their feelings of inadequacy, fear of the future and their hidden anxieties.

Almost immediately, we were drawn into the lives of these young emotionally immature males, while they waited for the plane, their ‘A’ level exam results and their new lives in the outer world. Pete (played by Simon Thompson), Jordan (Ben Clark), Ross (Joseph Hall), and JB (Lee Sherwood) with constant energy and highly-charged, macho antics, eyed the girls and in a drunken haze relived highlights of their holiday with flashbacks of the gorgeous Sophie (Emily Thompson) and their individual glamourised version of events. With highly appropriate Spanish-flavoured guitar music (played by Jazz Bullen) and excellent singing of angst-filled songs, these characters eventually revealed their true selves and in this short space of time grew up.

What a fantastic evening!

The next Viva event is ‘The Dreaming’ on the 3rd, 4th and 5th of August 730pm in the Hayward Theatre, Ely. contact: 01353 653931

The Elysian Riding and Driving for the Disabled Club

July 16, 2017

speaker Elysian Riding for the Disabled Y had its AGM on Wednesday 12th July 2017. New officers for the coming year were decided: the chair: Enid Bedford, secretaries: Sue Garrod and Debbie Bedford and the treasurer Mike Axford.

The guest speaker at the meeting was Tabitha Smith of the National Stud who described the history and importance of Newmarket as the centre of horses and horse racing. It was originally used by the Romans to race their chariots but was firmly established as a centre racing in Charles 11’s time for he had a passion for horses and the area is renowned for its turf being the most suitable for raising and racing them. The Jockey Club is now the key owner and has turned the industry into a multi-million business with the profits being ploughed back into the establishment.

The Elysian Riding and Driving for the Disabled club provide disabled children with the opportunity to have the experience of gaining confidence and a sense of achievement by riding and driving horses, assisted by an experienced team of helpers.

For more information contact Enid Bedford on 01353 662499

Review of ‘Beethoven’s 9th’ in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 15th July 2017

July 16, 2017

conductors Andrew Parnell and Steve Bingham Isle of Ely Arts Festival concert y 2The Isle of Ely Arts Festival culminated splendidly with a magnificent concert in Ely Cathedral. Taking part were Ely Choral Society, Ely Sinfonia, Ely Consort and soloists Peyee Chen (soprano), Freya Jacklin (mezzo soprano), Michael Solomon Williams (tenor) and Laurence Williams (bass-baritone).

Under the batons of the conductors Andrew Parnell and Steve Bingham, these wonderful musicians filled the cathedral with glorious sounds to the delight of a packed audience.

The concert opened with a treat from brass instruments which was followed by a very appropriate work by Vaughan Williams: ‘In the Fen Country’. We revelled in the spirit of the Fens, with haunting melodic episodes by the cor anglais and other woodwind, gorgeous rich harmonies in the strings and an effective orchestration that gave us a real sense of the potent expansiveness of the area.

After interval, Andrew Parnell’s composition ‘Fenland Images’, specially composed for the event, was a great success. The three movements were based on different texts: a poem ‘Fencraft’ by Hilary Parry, Etheldreda from the ‘Lives of Saints’ and a poem by well-renowned local Mike Rouse, ‘Fen Night’. This composition was cleverly designed and explored perfectly the vocal and orchestral resources the huge choir and accomplished orchestra had at their disposal, ranging from earthy depths and interwoven plainsong to shimmering watery ghosts.

This amazing concert ended with a mammoth performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony by the orchestra conducted by Steve Bingham. Hearing this excellent group play with particularly effective musicality and understanding brought to the fore how much more there is to this work than previously imagined. Nothing beats a live performance of this standard. Orchestra, choir and soloists combined to present a wonderful, exhilarating and profound experience giving us greater insight into the genius of Beethoven.

This whole event was indeed a rare and powerful encounter.



Review of ‘An Alpine Symphony’ by Cambridge Philharmonic in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 8th July 2017.

July 9, 2017

review Camb Phil conductor and solo singerCambridge Philharmonic gave a splendid concert in Ely Cathedral on Saturday. Under the baton of conductor Timothy Redmond, choir, orchestra and solo soprano Stephanie Corley, filled the Cathedral with emotive, potent, and effective sounds.

The concert opened grandly with a magnificent performance of Parry’s ‘I was Glad’. The strength and grandeur of the piece was presented beautifully.

Elgar’s ‘The Spirit of England,’ based on the First World War and its effects, followed. Poems relating to the date the war was declared, the early fervent patriotism, the affect the war had on the women and the darkness and devastation of the fallen formed the basis of the three movements. The orchestra explored Elgar’s subtle effects perfectly, often creating a constant underlying marching pulse that echoed the timelessness of the reality of war. The soprano soloist Stephanie Corley sang beautifully, adding to the drama and emotive impact of the work.

While there were subtle moments in Richard Strauss’s ‘An Alpine Symphony’, especially when the delicate alpine flowers come into view, this was a very different piece of music altogether. These amazing instrumentalists rose to the challenges of the composition and created a most effective series of vibrant images. Strauss’s colourful orchestration and compositional skill interwove recurring representative themes meaningfully, reflecting memorably the powerful grandeur of the mountain, the gentle rising of the sun, the overwhelming sense of achievement on reaching the summit of the mountain, the sudden frightening impact of thunder, lightning and heavy rain and the hasty descent.

This was indeed an excellent concert.

Cambridge Philharmonic will be performing Mahler’s 8th Symphony in Ely Cathedral on the 7th July next year.

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