Posts Tagged ‘Ely Cathedral’

A review of ‘Verdi’s Requiem’ in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 4th May 2019

May 5, 2019

It is no wonder that this was a popular event and that this Requiem is performed so often. This night’s performance of Verdi’s Requiem given by Ely Sinfonia, the King’s Lynn Festival Chorus and soloists was magnificent. We were treated to all the emotionally-packed aria-like melodic material that we know and love from Verdi’s operas, while at the same time, these amazing musicians drew every ounce of religious fervour, excitement and reverence from the score.

Conducted by Steve Bingham, this fine choir and orchestra were able to present incredible contrasts in expression and volume. The extremely soft moments, especially in the strings, were amazing. Contrasting this, were phenomenal moments of great excitement and climax with the cathedral vaults positively resounding with fantastic voluminous sounds.

There were some particularly effective instants and these included thoughtful reverence in the Introit, spine-chilling, frenetic agony in the recurring Dies Irae (Day of wrath), eerie mystery with the words ‘Liber scriptus proferetur’ and a delightful sense of light permeating ‘Lux aeterna’.

The soloists were Aoife O’Connell (soprano), Freya Jacklin (mezzo soprano), Michael Solomon Williams (tenor) and Laurence Williams (bass). They were wonderful and balanced perfectly, enhancing the score with passionate depth and beauty.

This was a wonderful evening’s concert that brought home how important such heightened music is in our lives and how it creates episodes that reach far beyond reality. Sounds such as these take us away from ordinary humdrum problems that plague our lives at ground level. Everyone should be able to experience such sublime realms of musical genius.

The next event to look forward to is on Saturday 21st September in Ely Cathedral at 7.30 p.m. which will be Ely Sinfonia’s Twentieth Anniversary Concert featuring Martin Roscoe playing Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No 2, Beethoven’s Symphony no. 78 and Mozart’s Symphony no. 29. For more information contact http://www.elysinfonia.co.uk or box.office@elycathedral.org.

 

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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 http://www.cambridgechorale.org.uk

 

 

 

 

 

Review of Ely Consort’s In memoriam concert on Saturday 1st December in Ely Cathedral Lady Chapel

December 3, 2018

Ely Consort is a name to be reckoned with. This must be one of the best choirs in the district. It isn’t until you hear good quality music produced by an excellent choir like this that you realize what you have been missing. Director Matthew Rudd really knows how to shape and develop a beautiful, well balanced sound and how to vary the pace, rhythm and dynamics to create mesmerising effects.

Russian Orthodox Church music brings to mind deep bass voices singing in open harmony. Tonight we certainly had the gorgeous deep basses and also a well produced tone in each of voice parts. With the gorgeous sound this choir produced echoing round the Lady Chapel it was easy to imagine we were transported into the depths of Russia.

The theme of the evening: remembrance, commemoration and reconciliation was well reflected in the pieces. The programme was based around Rachmaninov’s unaccompanied ‘All Night Vigil’.  The powerful richness of the voices was apparent from the start. Singing in Russian, this choir’s attention to detail, its expressiveness and precision were exceptional.

Other works included David Bednall’s ‘To a Missing Friend and ‘The Soldier’, a delightfully refreshing ’Do not Stand at my Grave and Weep’ by David Jepson, the tumultuous ‘Ring out, Wild Bells’ by Jonathan Dove and the first performance of a commissioned work by Sarah Quartel ‘’Hope’ is the thing with feathers’.

Sarah’s work was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the evening. Her charming lyrical piano accompaniment and the way she coloured the words so adorably and effectively made this piece most effective. The sense of the lightness of a fluttering bird, rising above the storms in life was never lost.

Charlie Penn’s accompaniments were superb. He achieved amazing effects in Jonathan Dove’s ‘Ring out, wild bells’.

This was indeed an excellent concert. The next events to look forward to are concert on Saturday 15th December at All Saints’ Church in Cottenham, on Saturday 16th March in Ely Methodist Church and on Saturday 29th June in St. Mary’s Church, Burwell. For more information contact info@ elyconsort.org.uk.

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.

Comment: Flags should be signs of support, nothing more.

September 22, 2018

There has been a lot of fuss about a piece of cloth: a flag flown over Ely Cathedral recently. It was a rainbow coloured flag to represent support for the LGBTQI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, and Intersex) community for Ely and Cambridge Pride. This happened because a Pride celebration was held in the city. What is wrong with that?  The flag was not put up to say that Ely Cathedral was announcing that it was one of the community in question, it was merely a gesture of goodwill.

While flags can be important for what they represent, it is the purpose intended in flying them that matters. There is surely nothing wrong with a flag showing goodwill to an organization that does no harm. It is only flags that represent aggression or injustice that should be condemned. Even then, on more than one occasion I have seen ‘The Jolly Roger’ a pirate flag flown in the district. These pirate flags were obviously harmless – they were not put up as a cry for us to support piracy, a criminal act if ever there was one, but as part of children’s play. When children play they fantasize and through their play they need to be able to have ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’ to explore the problems of good and evil in our lives, just as so many TV dramas do.

Unfortunately for some, flags represent unreasonable and extreme beliefs about a subject.  It seems to be particularly noticeable in the UK that flags are seen as antagonistic signs. There are many people who feel that even the Union Jack has been adopted by some extremists and so the feelings the flag engenders in the population can be mixed. We do not see households simply flying the Union Jack as a symbol of their appreciation and support for their country, certainly not in the way that they do in Spain where it is quite common to see the Spanish flag flown from balconies or from shop windows.

It is time for the ordinary people of our country, to re-adopt our flag and fly it with pride. The Scouts and Guides were once taught the significance of the flag and how it is constructed and how it could be used as a sign of distress by flying the flag upside down. Few people seem to be aware of this these days so if they were to do so it is very doubtful that any help would come. Our own government has been known to slip up on one occasion and when the flag was accidentally flown upside down on a government building, fortunately there were a few informed people who contacted the BBC immediately!

 

 

 

A review of G4 in Ely Cathedral on Thursday 23rd November 2017

November 26, 2017

With the queue of people spilling right out onto the pavement from the entrance of Ely Cathedral, it was obvious that this evening was going to be something particularly special and G4 is a group that has certainly stood the test of time and is as popular as ever.

The evening contained a full and varied programme of music that not only gave us a good taste of Christmas to come, it also touched the heart strings as only experienced singers can do. There were times of joyful acknowledgement of the coming season with traditional carols such as ‘Away in a Manger’, ’O Little Town of Bethlehem’ and ‘Good King Wenceslas’ and the audience was delighted to have the chance to join in with some of them.

The highlights for me were the more pensive moments, especially when this group: Jonathan Ansell, Ben Thapa, Mike Christie and Nick Ashby, moulded together in that memorable harmonic texture that they are renowned for. ‘I can’t help falling in love’ was especially moving.

There were also more jolly moments and the encore medley was particularly effective.

A young choir from Milton Keynes provided variety and it was not doubt that the children were delighted to be on stage with such famous people. They certainly livened up the evening with their lively song in the second half of the programme

The accompanists, A.J. Moore (guitar) and Jonathan Eyre (piano and organ) were fine musicians and supported the event superbly.

This was a highly successful even and there was no doubt that the fans weren’t disappointed. You need to book up now if you want to get into their return performance in the cathedral next year!

 

A review of ‘Prime Brass’ in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 11th November 2017

November 14, 2017

Prime Brass is renowned as an excellent group of brass players and tonight the standard of music was as high as expected. Conducted by Paul Trepte they gave magnificent performances opening proceedings with the majestic but sombre ‘Marche Triomphale du Centenaire de Napoléon’ by Louis Vierne,

This was followed by an original composition commissioned for Paul Trepte: ‘Fanfares and Chorale’. Paul’s composition was one of the highlights. He explored the contrasts of the more precisely articulated and triumphant fanfare and the more sonorous chorales intriguingly well while creating a cohesive and interesting piece as a whole.

Other delightful pieces performed by this group were ‘Salvum fac populum tuum’ by Widor and ‘A night on a Bare Mountain’ by Mussorgsky arranged by K. Singleton.

Later in the programme, Guy Llewellyn’s arrangement of ‘Mars the Bringer of War’ by Holst was especially effective and the sense of foreboding and the impending horror of war were never lost.

The younger Prime Brass group excelled themselves. Under the baton of Christopher Lawrence they flourished and the pieces they played rang out beautifully and triumphantly through the magnificent vaults of Ely Cathedral. Their ‘Fanfare for a Royal Occasion’ by Ken Naylor, Rigaudon by Campra and ‘Remember’ by Jasper Eaglesfied were delightful. ‘Remember’ was especially interesting for it was commissioned from the young composer who could be found in the midst of Junior Prime Brass. He should go far.

When the groups came together at the end of the concert, the impact of such a powerful sound and the amazing precision of their playing, especially in ‘A Poetic March’ by Alford was particularly noticeable. With fireworks resounding in the park next door before the concert began, the final piece, Handel’s ‘Fireworks Suite’ culminated the concert perfectly.

This was a splendid memorable concert in keeping with this special day.

 

Review of the Valentine’s Concert in Ely Cathedral on the 11th February 2017

February 12, 2017

The Valentine’s Concert in Ely Cathedral on February 11th was the eighth annual visit by Warren  Mailley-Smith and co musicians and it was one of the finest.

Warren Mailley-Smith (piano), Pavlos Carvalho (cello), Lucy Jeal  (violin) and

(soprano) gave us a splendid evening of romantic music that not only stirred the heart strings but amazed us with their technique and ability to bring out the musical qualities of the pieces they chose. The   compositions were by no means easy and the way in which the three instrumentalists demonstrated  such clarity and virtuosic skill was phenomenal. No matter how difficult the passage, these three excellent musicians synchronized perfectly. Susan Parkes (soprano) added to the wonderfully romantic spirit of the evening with her collection of songs at the end of the programme.

In Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight’ Sonata, Warren played with accomplished fluency that comes with experience and insight, bringing out sonorous key melodies exquisitely and adding new qualities to this very famous piece.

The highlight of the evening for me, Rachmaninov’s ‘Sonata for Cello in G minor’, played by Warren and Pavlos, was magnificent. While demonstrating amazing technique and empathy for the music, these fine performers maintained Rachmaninov’s romantic melancholy and nostalgia well while reminding us of their tremendous agility and expressive capability in the more joyous passages.

Elgar’s ‘Salut d’amour’ was a must for the programme and Lucy played it beautifully on her violin.

Mendelssohn’s ‘Piano Trio in D minor’ was positively charming while Susan’s songs left us in no doubt that this was indeed a celebratory concert. The songs included Puccini’s ‘O mio babbino’, ‘Morgen’ by Strauss, ‘Je veux vivre’ by Gounod and ‘Habañera’ by Bizet. In the moments when her beautiful voice was focused, the sound was exhilarating.

What a delightful evening!

Review of the concert given by Ely Sinfonia and Martin Roscoe concert in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 22nd October 2016 (photos featuring Steve Bingham Martin Roscoe and members of the audience Dr Arthur and Colin Wills)

October 23, 2016

review-gershwin-16-arthur-and-colin-wills-yreview-gershwin-16-steve-bingham-yEly Sinfonia members, under the directorship of Steve Bingham, were excellent on Saturday when they performed works by Bernstein, Gershwin and Aaron Copland in Ely Cathedral. They handled the tricky rhythms, rapid runs and sonorous harmonies with real aplomb. This orchestra has certainly come on a long way since it first started.

The star solo performer of the night was Martin Roscoe, a highly accomplished and experienced musician. He played Gershwin’s ‘Piano Concerto in F’ with calm assurance, using an amazing variety of touch and virtuosic technique that made the piece sparkle. He gave the impression of playing in three-dimensions, sharp melodic phrases being brought out clearly with other subsidiary phrases shaped carefully underneath.  He had that special quality that only first class pianists have; he pulled back almost imperceptivity with Gershwin’s emotional passages so that every nuance of feeling was explored. When Martin said at interval that he enjoyed his visit to Ely Cathedral, I am sure we certainly enjoyed having him come and considering his wealth of knowledge of piano concertos it is to be hoped he comes again.

Of the purely orchestral pieces for the evening, Aaron Copland’s ‘Quiet City’ appealed to me most. This mostly quiet composition was performed very well, conveying exquisitely a serenity that created a magical atmosphere, stirring the imagination wonderfully.

Bernstein’s ‘Overture to Candide’ was colourful and expressive with the changes in dynamics brought out particularly well. In Aaron Copland’s ‘Appalachian Spring’, the performers gave a highly skilful and entertaining performance giving us fitting snippets of America that ended the evening perfectly. It was heartening to hear the well known tune ‘Simple Gifts’ included. (This tune is known to us as ‘The Lord of the Dance’.)

It was indeed a splendid evening. Ely Sinfonia’s next major event will be ‘Symphonie Metamorphosis’ with works by Hindemith, Ravel and Franck on 6 May 2017 in Ely Cathedral.

contact: box.office@elycathedral.org.review-gershwin-16-martin-roscoe-2-y

Review of The Pembroke Players’ Japan Tour group’s presentation of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ in the presbytery of Ely Cathedral on 8th September 2016

September 11, 2016

This group, more than any other I have witnessed lately, gets to the heart of Shakespeare: his words. With absolutely clear diction, dynamic action and minimal props and scenery, this fine group gave us Shakespeare’s play in a nutshell: the tale of two young lovers from opposing enemy families.  Nothing was lost with cutting the cast to the bone, leaving out the male heads of the households for example, for Shakespeare was not averse to strong women and the matriarchal heads of families, Lady Capulet (played by Dolores Carbonari) and Lady Montague (Lola Olufemi) certainly held their ground. The young and good-looking lovers were well represented by Ciarán Green (Romeo) and Emma Corrin (Juliet). Some of the other particularly notable characters were Nurse (Yasmin Freeman) and Mercutio (Justin Blanchard) who spoke and moved confidently and charismatically about the stage keeping us thoroughly enthralled. Paris (Will Bishop), Benvolio (Katura Morrish ) Tybalt (Toby Marlow), and Friar Laurence (William Ashford) were also highly creditable characters helping the plot move to its dramatic end. The additional modern feel of this production, especially the wonderfully choreographed dance to music out of Shakespeare’s time, added spice to this impressive production.

Congratulations to director George Kan and his team Tour Manager Romilly Beddow and Technical director Charlie Jonas for such an exceptional performance.  If this is any indication, their tour of Japan should be highly successful.