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.

To receive news of more forthcoming events send a blank email to:

Review of Madame Butterfly by Opera Bohemia in the Hayward Theatre, Ely on 1st July 2017.

July 2, 2017

review Butterfly Catriona Clark and Rowan RedfarnOpera Bohemia’s ‘Madame Butterfly’ in the Hayward Theatre in Ely on Saturday was wonderful.

The singing was superb, the actions measured and strongly symbolic, and the accompaniment robust and supportive.  The underlying ecstasy, pain and anguish of Puccini’s style were beautifully captured.

The characters were well defined. Catriona Clark in portraying the betrayed central character Cio-Cio San, sang magnificently carrying the pathos and fragility of her character particularly well. American sailor, B.F. Pinkerton (David Lynn) was a good match and Suzuki (Louise Collett) a good friend. Mention must be made of the highly impressive control and naturalness of young actor Rowan Redfarn playing Sorrow. The consular office, Sharpless, played by Whitaker Mills, Goro (Kenneth Reid) and Madeleine (Joy Wilson) all assisted the plot expertly and Kate (Fiona Mackenzie) was an excellent unwitting thorn the side of Madame ‘Pinkerton’.

Andrew Brown on piano, ably assisted by Feargus Hetherington on violin, helped the emotional drama of the show rise and fall powerfully.

Costumes and staging also added to the atmosphere, especially Madame Butterfly’s costume and the English translation overhead helped us understand the Italian. It was very pleasing to hear the music sung in its original language for words and music were designed to gel together and so created a stunning effect that kept us spellbound.

Congratulations must go to the director John Wilkie and his team for such a splendid performance.

For more information about Opera Bohemia, contact:

Review of ‘Hairspray Junior’ presented by KD Theatre Productions

June 25, 2017

KD Theatre Productions gave a dazzling performance of ‘Hairspray Junior’ on Saturday. With 150 children taking part, the stage was packed with a sparkling array of characters and groups, all telling the story of star wannabe making good.

Tracy Turnblad (played by Ellie Hughes) had her heart set on starring In the ‘Corny Collins Show’. Mum, Edna Turnblad (Jack Stearne) was at first unwilling but blossomed as a star herself as Tracy’s quest became a reality through her determination and personality. Dad, Wilbur Turnblad (Dean Bruce) supported her all the way. With the help of her friends, Penny Pingleton ((Netta Hociej), dancer Seaweed (Brandon Homes), her idol Link Larkin (Zak Potts) and amazing Motor Mouth Maybelle (Jamie Musora) Tracy overturned society as it was known then in the ‘60s and the integration of whites and blacks became a reality.

The baddies of the tale, previous Miss Teen Hairspray Amber Von Tussle (Mia Leverington) and Velma Von Tussle (Emily Gordon) did their utmost to thwart Tracy but thankfully failed.

Other notable characters included Corny Collins (Jacob Stoodley), Little Inez Stubbs (Abigail Day), and Prudy Pingleton and Matron (Ellis Hociej) who were joined by a host of other viable contributors.

All the characters, no matter how minor, really lived the tale and with constant in infectious rhythms, some excellent singing and lively movement, this show had the audience mesmerised from the start.

Congratulations must go to the director Jessica Theobald and her team for such a fantastic production.

For more information:

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: