Posts Tagged ‘Christmas Concert’

Review of G4’s Christmas Concert in Ely Cathedral on Tuesday 20th November 2018

November 22, 2018

It is no wonder G4’s Christmas Concert in the Cathedral last Tuesday was a sell out. This unique group captured that quintessential quality that appeals to our inner-most senses. The difference between amateur and professional singers was never more obvious than when these great singers first opened their mouths. Serious training, well-placed and controlled voice production, the ability to express deep emotions in a single sound were in evidence with this group. Jonathan Ansell, Mike Christie, Nick Ashby and Lewis Raines knew their stuff.

They were joined from time to time by a huge young choir from the Cambridge Pauline Quirk Academy adding a touch of what Christmas is all about – the joy and spontaneity of children.  Harry Smith, in particular, gave a heart-stopping solo in ‘Once in Royal David’s City’.

Highly proficient accompaniments throughout the evenings were provided by the fantastic harpist, Zita Silva, and the phenomenal pianist and organist: Jonathan Hodgson.

The programme was well selected and there was something for everyone, even a chance for the audience to join in. Along with popular Christmas Carols and songs were a number of other delightful items including ‘Panis Angelicus’ by Cesar Franck, ‘Ave Maria’ and ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’ (Vicar of Dibley-style).

Highlights for me were ‘We’re Walking in the Air’, ‘Good King Wenceslas Last Looked Out’, ‘To Where you Are’, ‘Bring Him Home’, ‘All I want for Christmas is You’ and ‘Nessun Dorma’.

The event supported the charity ‘Missing People’ – so pertinent at this time of year.

G4 will be coming to Ely Cathedral again next year on Thursday 21st November. You are advised to book as early as you can.


Review: The King’s School Ely’s concert: ‘Christ the King’ in Ely Cathedral on Sunday 20th November 2011

November 28, 2011

The King’s School Ely’s concert, ‘Christ the King’ in Ely Cathedral on Sunday 20th November 2011, certainly came up to expectations. It was the epitome of distinction and ‘class’. The King’s School Chapel Choir, Chamber Choir and Barbers, Prime Brass and Jonathan Lilley (organ) under the directorship of Ian Sutcliffe presented an event that was of the highest quality and most fitting for the Cathedral and the time of year.

Positioned in the presbytery towards the east end of the building, the voices filled the vaults robustly and the brass and percussion rallied magnificently while Jonathan Lilley played the organ with his usual panache. …

The programme of mostly sacred pieces heralded the Christian religious Feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday of the church year – the one before the beginning of Advent. Composers included Finzi, Bullock, Mathias, Howells, Britten, Vaughan Williams, Tippett, Ireland, Bliss, Walker, Rose and Rutter – an array of some of the greatest.

The opening ‘God is gone up’ by Finzi brought matters to attention with vibrant fanfares from the brass and potent singing from the choir. It was interesting to note that the work had been arranged by the Director of Music at the Cathedral, Paul Trepte, who was in the audience at this concert.

The Bullock, ‘Give us the wings of faith’, brought out the most reflective quality of the choir, while ‘Lift up you heads’ by Mathias was punctuated with quirky attention-grabbing rhythms that never missed a beat. The mystery in the line ‘Who is this King of glory?’ was mesmerizing.

Jonathan gave ‘Rhapsody no. 3 in C sharp minor’ by Howells good measure, revelling in its moments of bombastic declaration that reflected the environment in which the composition was written – during Zeppelin raids which made it impossible for the composer to sleep. What better way to cope than to pen a composition of this magnitude! Jonathan’s skill brought out the cohesive quality of the work, enhancing the powerful effect of the regular poignant falling chromatic lines.

Then, suddenly, trumpets sounded from afar performing ‘Fanfare for St Edmundsbury ‘by Britten. The distant call of the trumpets reflected the environment for which the piece had been written originally. It had been written for the ‘Pageant of Magna Carta’ to be performed in the grounds of St Edmundsbury Cathedral, Bury St Edmunds. The three contrasting trumpet solos gelled perfectly in their final combined effort.

The men’s voices added warmth to Vaughan William’s ‘The Call’, while King’s Chapel Choir oozed luxurious harmonies in Tippett’s arrangement of the spiritual ‘Steal Away’. Ireland’s attractive writing was enhanced with the sheer beauty of the soprano and alto voices in ‘Ex ore innocentium’ and Prime Brass treated us to a vibrant snippet of theme music for a BBC series on British Architecture – ‘The Spirit of the Age’.

One notable factor of this event was the slick movements of various members of this large mass of performers. The opening strands of ‘I will lift up mine eyes’ by Walker came from beside us to the right and the effect of King’s Barbers’ expressive qualities made the piece very moving. Peter North’s expertise as their director was in no doubt.

With antiphonal effect, Barry Rose’s unaccompanied ‘Love’s Endeavour, Love’s Expense’ was sung by King’s Camber Choir to the left of us and the singers certainly brought out the charm and delicacy of the work.

The concert culminated with Rutter’s ‘Gloria’, a work of depth based on Gregorian chants. Choir, Prime Brass and organ performed magnificently, heightening the excitement and vitality of the first and third movements while pausing thoughtfully to reflect the prayerful central movement.

This was a magnificent concert and a testament of Ian Sutcliffe’s inspirational directorship and conducting. With music of this quality to aspire to, there will no doubt be a clamouring for The King’s School’s recently announced of scholarships for budding male singers in the sixth form.

The King’s School’s next major event will by the Charity Concert on Friday 2nd December 730 in the Hayward Theatre. Contact:  The Gibson Music School (01353 653931) email:

Rosemary Westwell

(note: the entire review may be found in due course on

Review Carols by Candlelight in Ely Cathedral

December 27, 2010

Ely Cathedral, one of the largest Cathedrals in the UK, is hardly the place where you would feel at home or intimate with the coziness of a family gathering, but Paul Trepte, Ely Cathedral Choir, Ely Sinfonia, Ely Imps and Jonathan Lilley achieved all of this in their fund-raising concert Carols by Candlelight on Wednesday 22nd December 2010. Resplendent in the Royal red, Paul managed a packed Cathedral with the warmth and friendliness of the best of benevolent managers. Clutching a candle given to us on entry to the Cathedral, we had plenty of opportunity to sing our favourite carols: Once in Royal David’s City, While Shepherd’s Watched, The Holly and the Ivy, Good King Wenceslas, See Amid the Winter’s Snow, and O Come all Ye Faithful to name but a few. Ely Cathedral Choir excelled themselves (as usual) with beautiful, sonorous performances of Bob Chilcott’s Nova Nova, Christmas Fantasia by Ralph Vaughan Williams, and Carol of the Magi by John Rutter. James Rees, baritone, featured as a worthy soloist. The large choir of young singers, Ely Imps, gave events special charm with their fresh young voices singing Sing we then Merrily by William Byrd, I wonder as I wander by John Jacob Niles and Waltz of the Snowflakes by Peter Illych Tchaikovsky. Waltz of the Snowflakes was a charming picturesque piece in which Ely Imps were joined by the Choristers and Ely Sinfonia. The well established local orchestra, Ely Sinfonia, produced a light agile sound that supported the singers admirably. The performance of movements from George Bizet’s Jeux d’Enfants was light-hearted, energetic and rhythmically exciting. Jonathan Lilley accompanied with usual panache and as he dashed from organ to piano and back not a note was out of place. Proceeds from the concert will benefit the Cathedral’s Christmas Charities (Guide Dogs for the Blind, Oliver Zangwill Centre, St. John’s Hackney and Link House) and the Ely Cathedral Trust. Contact:

review: Peace Child

February 3, 2010

Ely Cathedral was the ideal venue for Peace Child International to present “Peace Child – Alpha Omega”: a musical journey through faith by David Gordon.  

The combined forces of Ely Choral Society, choirs from Southfields Junior School, Witchford Village College, representatives from Turkey and Estonia and the Ely Festival Orchestra produced a very moving and powerful  sound.  This large gathering of musicians was inspired by the Musical Directorship of the renowned Andrew Parnell.

An excellent script by David Woollcombe and members of the cast brought into focus those unanswerable questions about religion, faith and the purpose of our existence that man has raised since time began.  Director Abdul Shayek and Producer Rosey Simonds should be well pleased with the fine acting of the cast: Gemma Craven (Storyteller), Cecilia Garcia (Maryam), Elizabeth Marnie (Charlotte), Regé Page (Christopher) and Joseph Vacher (Aaron). Notable representatives of different backgrounds and perspectives, chaired by Canon Peter Challen, were on hand to continue a discussion of the issues raised after the interval.

Choirs and soloists were splendid and the singing of soprano Lili Kirikal from Estonia and Regé Page were particularly impressive. The orchestra gelled superbly and the quality of the performance was unquestionable. There were many impressive displays by highly skilled instrumentalists. Other notable performers were solo treble James Farmer, organist Jonathan Lilley and pianist and Musical Associate Richard Sharpey .

Fascinating orchestration created a tremendous feeling of awe and suspense at the beginning and one of the most moving items of the evening was the opening song “Who am I?”. Other highlights were the compelling “I believe” and the final triumphant song: “Reach Out” which ended the performance with a rousing flourish.

Ely Choral Society’s next concerts will be Bach’s St. Matthew Passion on Saturday 27th March and on Summer Concert and the launch of Ely Youth Choir on Friday 18th June. Contact:

Peace Child International may be contacted on tel: 01763274459 or email:


Review: The Nativity in Holy Trinity Church Haddenham Cambridgeshire

December 16, 2009

The fifth Haddenham Nativity lived up to its established reputation – an excellent show with memorable characters, realistic crowd scenes, great live music, an engaging down-to-earth script, fantastic costumes  and effects – the list is endless.

On early arrival at Holy Trinity Church there was hardly a seat to be found. A background of bird calls, an inspiring set in the east end of the Church and a general atmosphere of buzzing expectation indicated that it was going to be a good night’s entertainment.

This show was more than mere ‘entertainment’ – it was a most appropriate presentation for the Christmas season. Under the directorship of Leslie Stewart, The Nativity, the story of the birth of Jesus, usually reduced to a gathering of excited children wearing tea towels, became a highly professional adult presentation of events that entertained and educated the audience and participants.

Storyteller Artaban (Ian Ashmeade) coordinated scenes in a very friendly and approachable manner. All the characters from the era appeared: the much-troubled Joseph (John Shippey), a reluctant Mary (Eppie la Rue), the evil, powerful King Herod (Bruce Pattern), the zealous prophet John the Baptist (Ronan Sheehy) and the alluring but callous Salome (Luci Maltby), Herod’s future wife. Other strongly portrayed characters included the three Magi: Caspar (Paul Smith), Melchior (Rev. Jim Mullins), Balthazar (Rev. Fiona Brampton), Herod’s watchful sister-in-law Herodias (Diana Lock), the all-knowing adviser to Herod, Marcus (Stuart Findlay), The Shepherds played by Roger Pratt, Nick Law and Roy Stubbings, the ever practical Midwife (Christine Battersby), Mary’s friend Rachel (Joanne Flinders) and the adult Jesus (Daniel Walker). No Nativity would be complete without support from centurions (Chris Prescott and Geoff Maton), Roman soldiers (Andy Foster and David Gander), alternative storytellers (Miranda Pratt and Kate Findlay), suitors/scribes (Moti Meroz and Roy Stubbings) and a host of people forming the choir, the crowds, the girls at the Annunciation, the Shepherd Boys and the Children of Bethlehem.   

Producer/writer Sarah Burton knew how to engage to audience. How could the listeners not empathize with the restless soon-to-be father asking: “Is there anything I can do?”, only to be told by the midwife: “I think you have done enough already, don’t you?”? or the Shepherd moaning that his life is nothing but “Eat, sleep, sheep”.

Musical Director Cathy Priestly and Assistant Musical Director Natasha Cox produced sounds that enhanced the atmosphere positively and appropriately throughout the production. The final jazzy “Alleluia” sent the listeners home with a strong sense of elation that the season creates in even the most resilient of citizens.

Vibrant costumes, effective lighting (Robin Emery Theatre Services) and sound (Roy Truman Sound Services), polished performances, attractive choreography and carefully timed dramatic episodes all made this production unique. Issues that complicate our lives today were made very real: such as the stubborn, reluctant teenager; the bewildered new father or the brutality of a jealous, powerful despot.

Another notable highlight was the inclusion of so many local children. The ‘ah’ factor was never lost, one of the most memorable examples being the exotic entourage accompanying the three Magi. The screams of the Children of Bethlehem when Herod’s men came to kill them sent unforgettable shivers down the spine and the powerful spirited wind, eerie music and light that streamed from above made the visions credible contributions to events. 

This community event, created by the community for the community was only made possible by the generous support of local sponsors, the principal of these being Haddenham Charities, ADeC and Hereward Books. It is events like these that highlight the anomalies of Lottery donation criteria. Because an event is a repeated one, this surely should not deny it further support.  


News: events in the Ely area

October 7, 2009

Events in the Ely area:

Monday 26th October 2009 730 Topping’s Bookstore Ely author Shirley Williams

Wednesday 11th November 2009 Hayward Theatre, King’s School Ely Concert Society Series , 730 p.m. violinist

Saturday 14th November 2009 Cathedral Girls’ Choir with Henry Olonga, St. George’s Church Littleport

Wednesday 18th November 2009 730 Topping’s Bookstore Ely  author McCall Smith

Friday 20th November 2009 730 Hayward Theatre The King’s School Ely ‘The Old Dispensary Concert’ 

Monday 23rd November King’s School Ely Senior School Play ‘Our Country’s Good’

Saturday 28th November 730-915 p.m. Ely Cathedral Cambridge University Music Society  Mahler Eight

Friday 4th December 2009 730p.m. King’s School Ely ‘A Night at the Musicals’

Saturday 5th December 2009 St Mary’s Church Ely, Ely Choral Society Christmas Concert

Sunday 6th December 2009 Ely Cathedral Ely Sinfonia Christmas Concert

Monday 7th December 730 p.m. Recital Hall King’s School Ely ‘Unplugged’

Friday 18th December 2009 5-7 p.m. Ely Railway Station Isle Singers Christmas Carols


Saturday 30th January 2010 Peace Child – Alpha Omega by David Gordon (Cat Steven’s brother) Ely Cathedral

Saturday 19th June 2010 Summer Concert Ely Choral Society

Saturday 17th July 2010 Ely Cathedral Cambridge Philharmonic

Saturday 6th March 2010 Ely Sinfonia ‘Northern Lights’

Friday 1st October 2010 Ely Cathedral Ely Sinfonia ‘Travellers’ Tales’

Saturday 27th March 2010 St Matthew Passion by J.S. Bach Ely Choral Society with Rogers Covey-Crump of The Hilliard Ensemble, a specialist period orchestra and Jonathan Lilley  Ely Choral Society

Saturday 30th October 2010 Petite Messe Solennelle by Rossini Lady Chapel Ely Cathedral,  Ely Choral Society

review of Prime Brass in Ely Cathedral Sept09

September 8, 2009

Ely Cathedral was the ideal venue for a concert presented by one of the finest brass ensembles country-wide. Prime Brass is no mere collection of skilled performers: it is an exceptional ensemble of experienced and musically aware virtuosos who bring extra sparkle, sumptuousness and refinement to works that explore the capabilities of their instruments to the full. The sonorous warmth and rallying calls of the horns, the crisp attack and vibrant agility of the trumpet, the melodious, rhythmic backbone of the trombones and the rich depth of the tubas were explored in a continuous variety of textures and styles. Jonathan Lilley played the organ with equal proficiency, demonstrating his intimate understanding and command of the Cathedrals’ splendid organ. Also adding to the excitement and rhythmic drive of the evening were the group of first class percussion players. This highly professional performance was conducted by Paul Trepte, Director of Music at the Cathedral and his reputation for producing music of the highest standard made it certain that this concert would be first rate.    

The concert opened with Oliver Cromwell’s March, written by the local composer Dr Arthur Wills OBE, who was present at the concert.  This work proved to be an ideal composition for the setting. Dr Wills’ skilled writing fired the imagination and it was easy to identify with the threat of the developing might of Oliver Cromwell as he ‘marched’ into Ely to victory. Commissioned by a College in Huntingdonshire, the work developed powerfully with recurring marching trombones, precisely clipped melodic progressions and contrasting tranquil beauty from the organ. The superb skill of the performers set the work ablaze and it advanced in a continuously developing magnetic drive towards a grand finale of patriotic fervour fitting for any final night at the Proms. It is astonishing to learn that this work has not been taken up regularly by other colleges and institutions and that this was the first time the composer had actually heard this composition performed.   

Pictures at an Exhibition by Modeste Mussorgsky is a frequently arranged and performed composition. However, I have never heard such an inspired arrangement and performance of this work before. There was nothing mundane about the vibrant energy and dazzling colour of this work and these performers.  The promenade themes, readily recognizable but intriguingly varied, framed episodes of amazingly divergent character. From the mischievous evil of The Gnome, the tinkling flow of sparkling water of the Tuilerie Gardens and the fluttering pecking of the Chicks in their shells, nothing was left unexplored.

The evening was enhanced further with fine performances of Toccata and Fugue in D minor by J. S. Bach, Chaconne and Fugue Trilogy with Choral by Siegfried Karg-Elert and Messe Solennelle de Sainte Cécile by Eugene Bozza.

Prime Brass will feature in the Cathedral’s Christmas Concert on 22nd December 2009. If this concert is an indication of the standard of music – attendance is a must!


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