Posts Tagged ‘Dream of Gerontius’

Review of ‘The Dream of Gerontius’ by Elgar performed by Ely Choral Society, Cambridgeshire Choral Society, Ely Consort and the Ely Festival Orchestra in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 31st March 2012.

April 1, 2012

Elgar’s ‘The Dream of Gerontius’ performed by Ely Choral Society, Cambridgeshire Choral Society, and Ely Consort and the Ely Festival Orchestra in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 31st March 2012 was an unforgettable, moving and uplifting experience.

Under the baton of Andrew Parnell, these fine musicians captured the essence of Elgar’s genius.  With carefully shaped and measured precision, the messages of the text were abundantly clear.  Every essence of the journey of the soul of Gerontius and its final release in death was made important and meaningful by these impressive musicians. The audience felt a sense of awe and reverence —most fitting in the inspiring environment of Ely Cathedral.

The combined choir excelled. With a full, wholesome sound, these singers sang with informed assurance, no matter what this momentous score demanded.  Their effects ranged from the solemn prayers of the Assistants and the harsh brutality of the Demons to the ethereal beauty of the Choir of Angelicals. Even in the most interwoven of textures, no opportunity was lost to savour the expressive magnitude, heightened tensions, and profundity.

The orchestra was indeed on equal terms with the singers and these highly skilled instrumentalists balanced perfectly to help create this wonderful, emotional experience that captured the painful anguish of Gerontius’s experiences exactly. In the opening bars it became immediately apparent that we were about to experience something momentous. With both orchestra and choir every utterance was exact but evocative. Tonal richness, effective timing and cohesive, wide-ranging expression were clearly the order of the day.   Jonathan Lilley’s organ playing was also an essential contributor. There was a marked hush at the end of the sections. The listeners had been deeply affected.

The soloists were some of the finest I have heard in Ely Cathedral. Justin Lavender (tenor) was a highly charged Gerontius, his superb voice permeating the words and music with phenomenal emotional intensity. Jeremy White (bass) filled the Cathedral with his powerful voice. The first notes he sang as the Priest revealed him to be a man worthy of the role – one who could fill the Cathedral with astounding tonal control, power and authority. Deborah Miles-Johnson (mezzo-soprano) sang superbly, adding warmth and affection to Elgar’s uplifting music.

This was a most successful evening. There was no doubt why the Cathedral was packed.

Future events by Ely Choral Society include:

Saturday 2nd June 730 p.m. Ely Cathedral Concert Celebrating the Diamond jubilee of HM Queen Elizabeth 11 featuring massed choirs and the East Anglian Chamber Orchestra

Saturday 27th October, 7.30 p.m. Ely Cathedral Autumn concert, including pieces by Haydon, Bruckner and Parnell

Saturday 8th December, St. Mary’s Church, Ely Christmas Concert.

Rosemary Westwell

Review of The Dream of Gerontius performed by the Huntingdonshire Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra and St Ives Choral Society in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 26th June 2010

July 8, 2010

Ely Cathedral was the ideal venue for Hunts Phil and St. Ives Choral Society to perform Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius: an intense and vibrant exploration of the thoughts and process of a dying man. Under the baton of Musical Director Adrian Brown this impressively large group of musicians filled the cathedral with thought-provoking and moving sounds.

Neil Jenkins, once first tenor for the famous King’s Singers when he was a Choral Scholar at King’s College Cambridge, was an excellent choice for the role of the tormented Gerontius. His powerful voice coloured the words with great strength and passion while his diction was impeccable – every word rang clear, every emotional tinge given full value.

Edward Grint, also a previous choral scholar at King’s College Cambridge, gave the priest’s role power and conviction and his pleading tones as the Angel of Agony hinted appropriately the approaching final resolution.    

The choirs produced just the right balanced texture that conveyed the gentle reverence, demonic cynicism, climactic excitement or graceful acceptance that the words of Cardinal Newman’s poem demanded. Moments of Wagnerian super-charged drama were given full measure. The Choir of Angelicals was angelic indeed, sweetening deliciously the gently interwoven harmonies in the first Praise to the Holiest which transformed into a wonderful dramatic climax in its final version. 

Huntingdonshire Philharmonic orchestra established the worthiness of the performance at the outset.  The instrumentalists caught the emotional drive and cohesive magnetism of Elgar’s unusual Wagnerian-like sounds as they flowed continuously in an ever-developing, emotionally-charged manner. There were no parcelled arias and recitatives here. The soothing strings were especially effective at the beginning of Part 2 after the interval and brass, woodwind and flamboyant percussion coloured events magnificently.

Janet Shell was a magnificent Angel, her fine voice rising to the heights of the cathedral vaults, in soothing smoothly-shapely phrases.

This was indeed a momentous occasion.  

Forthcoming events by St Ives Choral Society include:

Annual Family Christmas Concert Saturday 18th December 2010

Handel: Dixit Dominus and Dettingen Te Deum Saturday 5th February 2011

Karl Jenkins Requiem Saturday 14th May 2011

Britten St Nicholas and Purcell Ode for St. Cecelia’s Day 2011

Contact St Ives Choral Society email:

Hunts Phil contact tel: 01487 824081