Posts Tagged ‘Ely Cathedral’

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!

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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.

Review of CAST’s production of ‘As You Like It’ in Ely Cathedral on Wednesday 24th August 2016

August 28, 2016

The University of Cambridge American Stage Tour presented a delightfully entertaining production of Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’ in Ely Cathedral presbytery on Wednesday.

These highly talented performers captured our hearts from the start and we could relate perfectly to the characters ranging from the lovely Rosalind (played by Amy Malone) and love-stricken Orlando (Joe Pitts) to the well matched Touchstone (Ryan Monk) and Bawdy Audrey (Megan Gulbert). Every character was true and the reactions to each other’s speeches were particularly impressive.

The witty Shakespearean language was delivered with astute, expressive timing while scenery costumes and mannerisms of the characters were brought up-to-date without ever losing the high quality of Shakespeare’s twists and turns in his witty script and complex plot.

The ingenious stage tableaux, especially the sheep scene and the beautiful highly appropriate music (by Jamie Felton) had us transfixed.

Special moments for me were the realistic fight scene at the beginning of the play when Orlando attacked his brother Oliver (Alasdair McNab), when Celia (AliceCarlill) expressed  such  disdain by  casually reading a book, ignoring the intricate games the lovers around her played and the MacDonald’s picnic. Only a highly successful group such as this would get away with such a scene.

This excellent group will begin their American tour in September.

For more information contact http://www.castcambridge.com/

Review of ‘Gabrieli Roar’ in Ely Cathedral on Monday 4th July 2016

July 7, 2016

This was an apt title for an amazing concert in Ely Cathedral featuring a massed choir of young singing enthusiasts. Who says the young never do anything? These young people have obviously practised many an hour to achieve such a wonderful sound and under the baton of Paul McCreesh, gelled together wonderfully to present many works of the church repertoire from Gabrieli’s time in the sixteen and early seventeenth centuries and some well known ones from later eras. These compositions needed a special understanding and approach to bring out the beauty of the music of their time.

From the opening plainsong ‘Ave Maris Stella’ that floated high in the cathedral vaults as the voices from the back of the church slowly moved forward to under the octagon, it was obvious that this was going to be a splendid evening.

The other works presented were by Felix Mendelssohn, Christopher Tye, Samuel Wesley, Edward Elgar, John Sheppard, Robert White, Herbet Howell and Thomas Tallis. Christopher Tye and Robert White were wise choices for they both had worked in Ely Cathedral.

At the full climaxes, the music did indeed ‘roar’ and these singers also created exquisite moments of contemplative reflection, charming beauty, and gentle resonance as the voice parts echoed each other and  intertwined.

The magnificent choirs gathered together included The Gabrieli Consort with Bradford Catholic Youth Choir, Cantante, Hertfordshire County Youth Choir, Inner Voices, London Youth Choir and Taplow Youth Choir. The highly competent organist was William Whitehead.

This was an inaugural concert for the coming Cambridge Summer Music Festival. For more information about the festival contact: http://www.cambridgesummermusic.com

Review of ‘The Building of Ely Cantata Eliensis’ in The Lady Chapel Ely Cathedral on Sunday 26 June 2016

June 27, 2016

review 26 June 16 The Story of Ely CathedralThe Cantata Eliensis tells the story of the building of Ely Cathedral. The librettist, Nick Pitts-Tucker, used original sources as his inspiration and the music was well-designed to reflect the chants and  harmonies from the twelfth century while incorporating more contemporary effects that coloured events wonderfully. The three composers Anna Krause, Toby Young and Louis Mander produced some intriguing sounds which gave the story life and substance and which would not have been possible without the expertise of the very fine musicians. We could feel the mysterious eeriness of the Fens, we experienced the horror of battle and marvelled at the portrayal of quarrymen, layers, carpenters and masons at work. Although a modern instrument, the improvised nature of the saxophone part interwove within the texture fittingly.

Under the baton of Kate Bullimore Cantata Dramatica soloists and chorus expressed the music with accomplished conviction leaving the audience with a sense that it had indeed experienced what it must have been like to build such a magnificent building in those times.

It was fortuitous that the Director of Music at Ely Cathedral had heard the work before in Grantham and the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral was a most appropriate place for the powerful open harmonies resounding against the stark stone of the surroundings.

For more information contact http://www.cantatadramatica.com

Review of ‘A Summer Celebration’ in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 25th June 2016

June 27, 2016

review 25 June 16 1 choristersreview 25 June 16 3 Lesley Garrett and Sarah McDonaldreview 25 June John Rutter‘A Summer Celebration’ in Ely Cathedral last Saturday must be one of the major highlights of the year and it certainly celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Ely Cathedral Girls’ Choir magnificently.

The performers included Ely Cathedral Girls’ Choir, Ely Cathedral Octagon Singers, The Ely Imps, The Ely Celebration Orchestra (led by Emma Gait) and famous guests Lesley Garrett (soprano) and John Rutter (composer and conductor). With a line-up like this, success was inevitable and it was no surprise that the cathedral was packed.

The quality of performance was undisputed and from the spine-tingling opening when the massed choir began to sing Zadok the Priest, there was not a moment that did not fill the cathedral with wonderful sound.

After Sarah MacDonald led the massed choir singing ‘Zadok the Priest’ the girls, boys and men’s choirs sang the other Coronation anthems: ‘The King shall Rejoice’ and ‘My heart is Inditing. Sarah’s conducting was exceptional.

John Rutter is an inspiring composer who writes music that is both delightful and accessible and the pieces he chose for The Ely Imps were ideal. They included ‘Magical Kingdon’, ‘Look at the World’ and ‘For the Beauty of the Earth’.  Under his baton the young singers sang beautifully, their voices clear and the music expressive and heart-warming. Asked what the secret of good composing is, John Rutter immediately replied: ‘Believe in it and study hard.’ This is wise advice from what must be one of the world’s most renowned current composers.

Equally famous Lesly Garrett joined the singers in ‘Laudate Dominum’ by Mozart and Stanford’s ‘Magnificat in G’ both of which were conducted by Sarah MacDonald. Needless to say, the effect was utterly stunning.

Beethoven’s ‘Mass in C’ was chosen to close the evening and the performers rose to the occasion wonderfully. Under Paul Trepte’s directorship they fully explored Beethoven’s quieter reflections, contrasts, intensity and changes of pace. The soloists were excellent and included Tara Bungard (soprano), Karl Read (alto), Mark Hounsell (tenor) and Jonathan Midgley (bass). For Tara this event was a real family affair for present in the audience was her mother, Sue Freestone, (Principal of The King’s School Ely where the choristers attend) who proudly admitted that her grandchildren were also performing as members of Ely Imps.

This was indeed a unique, splendid evening that would be nigh on impossible to surpass.

 

Review of Guy Johnston ( ‘cello)  and Melvyn Tan (piano) in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 11th June 2016

June 20, 2016

After the inaugural event of the Isle of Ely Arts Festival this year, when they presented a workshop to budding young cellists, these highly talented musicians gave a concert in Ely Cathedral.

The programme was varied but the performance was constant: a performance that can only be described as outstanding. Their phenomenal technique was immediately apparent as they varied the sound and touch very effectively.

Guy produced some of the most musical and precise sounds I havereview Guy Johnston and Melvyn Tan June 16heard from a ‘cello. His prowess was exemplified by agility and clarity in the Bach, amazingly powerful and well balanced double-stopping in the Turnage, sheer beauty and sonority in the Mendelssohn, notable intensity and sensitivity in the Schubert, potent bowing in the Chopin and very moving expression in the Fauré.

His talent was well matched by Melvyn Tan’s piano playing. Melvyn accompanied with real empathy as the need arose and in the Chopin particularly, his fantastic flair and virtuosic agility were unforgettable.

This was an excellent concert, giving the Isle of Ely Arts Festival a tremendous start.

 

Review of Ely Choral Society’s Concert in Ely Cathedral on Saturday

March 21, 2016

review Ely Choral Soc March 2016 soloists n Andrew Parnell Y

Ely Choral Society, Hertfordshire Chamber Orchestra and soloists under the baton of Andrew Parnell   presented music of a very high standard in Ely Cathedral on Saturday. These admirable soloists included soprano Elisabeth Rauch, mezzo soprano Chloe Latchmore, tenor Daniel Joy, and bass William Gaunt. Our own Assistant Organists, Edmund Aldhouse, provided assured accompaniment on the organ in this fine orchestra.

The pieces performed were Schubert’s ‘Mass no 3 in B flat Op. post. 14’ and ‘Stabat Mater’ by Rossini. These two works provided excellent balance to the programme, the composers’ styles being so different but effective in their own way. The Schubert contained many moments of reverence, joy, sadness and warmth. His lyrical beauty was very much in evidence. Choir, orchestra and soloists were splendid, bringing out the most expressive parts really effectively and under the conductor’s clear signals were able to work together extremely well to produce the type of sound that left us wanting more after the last notes of the ‘Dona nobis pacem’ faded away into the magnificent building of Ely Cathedral.

Rossini, known for his operatic approach to all things, contrasted the very pleasant tuneful style of Schubert, with something more varied, and more contrasted.  Although we may be used to more sedate constraints in church music, the sweeping gestures of the arias and the sudden dramatic changes of volume in this work were well placed – for how else to express emotional trauma at its highest? What the composer achieved here was to use his musical know- how to incorporate traditional elements, such as the beautifully sung unaccompanied sections, with his expertise in expressing reflective emotion in the arias.

There is no doubt that the phenomenal ability of the musicians and the superb conducting by Andrew Parnell made this concert was of their best. More of this please!

Their next event will be ‘Carmina Burana’ on Saturday 9th July 7.30pm at the Hayward Theatre contact: http://www.elychoralsociety.org

Review of Ely Sinfonia’s concert on Saturday 12th March 2016 in Ely Cathedral

March 21, 2016

Steve Bingham March 2016

Under the expert baton of Steve Bingham, Ely Sinfonia presented a concert of French music in Ely Cathedral on Saturday. The varied programme included ‘Danse Macabre’ by Saint-Saëns, ‘Chants d’Auvergne’ by Canteloube featuring soloists Tara Bungard and ‘Symphonie Fantastique’ by Berlioz.

The first work, ‘Danse Macabre’, contained all the ingredients of a vibrant emotional story of death as a symbolic figure. There was much swapping of instruments by these excellent performers during the evening and this was the first demonstration of this. The lead violinist coped magnificently with the demands of the composer to retune the top string of one of her instruments to bring out the sinister death-like interval of the triton (augmented fourth) that is so familiar and the dance of death that followed pulsated with rhythmic drive and vibrant, colourful orchestration.  The phenomenal technique of the conductor and instrumentalists was evident from the start and shaped this performance into something special.

Tara Bungard (soprano) has an excellent voice. Breath control, placement and projection of the sounds into the massive cathedral were perfect such that I could not help comment immediately afterwards – ‘Now THAT is how you sing!’ She coloured the songs from the Auvergne beautifully and when she reached the final one it became obvious why this work had been included in the porgramme. When the last song, Bailèro, began there was an intake of breath from the audience – this very popular song used by so many in different scenarios, floated through this huge building exquisitely – a real spine-chilling affair.  We are very fortunate to have this singer in our midst.

The evening culminated with another well-known work: ‘Symphonie Fantastique’ and all the eccentricities, heart-wrenching climaxes and extremely varied scenes from the glittering splendour of waltzing dancers to the sinister toll of the death knell were conveyed confidently and effectively by this now experienced orchestra. The fixed idea – a unique melody that regularly appeared in different guises – expressed perfectly the haunted composer’s unrequited love for the Irish actress Harriet Smithson.   This composition was not easy to play, for a number of times instrumentalists were taken well away from their normal comfort zones to create amazing effects and these performers rose to these challenges magnificently.

For more information about this phenomenal orchestra see: http://www.elysinfonia.co.uk