Posts Tagged ‘Ely Choral Society’

Review of ‘O Come, Come, Emmanuel’ by Ely Choral Society and Ely Youth Choir on Saturday 3rd December at St. Mary’s Church, Ely

December 4, 2016

The concert given by Ely Choral Society and Ely Youth Choir on Saturday 3rd December at St. Mary’s Church Ely was splendid. The title: ‘O Come, Come, Emmanuel’ indicated the nature of this interesting programme which focused on Advent rather than the usual Christmas Carols and readings.

The first work by Alan Bullard was written for Selwyn Chapel Choir which our own Sarah McDonald  directs. (Sarah is also Director of Ely Cathedral’s Girls’ Choir). The opening of the prelude was based on the familiar hymn ‘O come, O come Emanuel’ and the first phrase recurred regularly, making the whole piece that took up the first half of the progamme a cohesive whole.

The choirs under the baton of Andrew Parnell and accompanied on the organ by Edmund Aldhouse, were impressive. The adult choir voices were balanced beautifully and the youth choir’s singing was positively charming.

A very attractive piece by Andrew Parnell, ‘Advent Tidings’, opened the second part of the programme and the choirs really came alive. One of the loveliest performances was the full choir singing ‘Sing of a Maiden’ by Tim Alban Jones. Of the works sung by the Youth Choir, ‘Waiting for the Word’ was particularly impressive.

Moments for audience participation which was remarkably successful under the guidance of Andrew enhanced the evening.

The culmination of the programme was ‘That Wondrous Birthday’ by Ely-composer Arthur Wills who was present at the time. Andrew spoke glowingly of Arthur who came forward to express his delight at the performance: ‘Wonderful!’ he said. Arthur’s intriguing sense of atmosphere and unique arrangements of traditional music were fascinating.

This was indeed a wonderful concert. The next performance by Ely Choral Society is on 8th April in Ely Cathedral singing ‘Messiah’ by Handel.


Review of Ely Choral Society’s ‘Carmina Burana’ concert in the Hayward Theatre on Saturday 9th July 2016

July 10, 2016

 review Ely Choral Society soloists and some of the choir July 2016

Wow! What a fantastic concert! Ely Choral Society really came into its own at the event on Saturday. The choirs had obviously worked very hard, for their precision with the very short sharp phrases in ‘Carmina Burana’ was spot on. The piano accompanists were magnificent, the soloists excellent and the percussion positively made the show. This must be the most vibrant and exciting concert the Choral Society has ever given.

The opening piece was indeed an excellent accompaniment to ‘Carmina Burana’. Written by Jonathan Dove, ‘Arion and the Dolphin’ reflected much of Carl Orff’s style, but this time we were taken into a world of water with a magical tale. The effects created by the voices, pianos and percussion were amazing.

The performance of ‘Carmina Burana’ was as exciting and spirited as anyone could hope for. The choir filled the theatre with the well known dramatic choruses, capturing the rhythmic pulsations exquisitely.  The captivated audience was given a thrilling, life-affirming experience.

Conductor Andrew Parnell and the participants are to be congratulated for such a fine performance. Taking part were: Ely Choral Society, Ely Youth Choir, pianists Maurice and Thanea Hodges, the percussion ensemble led by Will Sivier and soloists: Tara Bungard (soprano), Ashley Harries (counter -tenor) and Mark Gotham (baritone).

This was the culmination of the Isle of Ely Arts Festival. At the end of interval the Chair of the Isle of Ely Arts Festival committee, Shelia Friend-Smith, thanked those who had helped make the Festival so successful and read out the winners of the short story competition.  (These results are now on:

Ely Choral Society’s next events will be on Wednesday 2nd November (Requiem, Duruflé in Ely Cathedral), Saturday 3rd December (Family Carols in St. Mary’s Church) and on Saturday 8th April 2017 (Messiah, Handel in Ely Cathedral).

further information:

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:

Review of Ely Youth Choir Festival Concert in the Hayward Theatre on Sunday 19th April 2015

April 20, 2015

The crème de la crème of local choirs met on Sunday for the second Ely Youth Choir Festival. Young singers rehearsed all day and performed a concert to a large appreciative audience at the end of the day.
This year’s event was an undoubted success. Ely Youth Choir (conducted by Andrew Parnell), Saffron Walden County High School Chamber Choir (conducted by Janet Wheeler), and Cantiamo (conducted by Roger Bond) gave a splendid performance, separately and as a whole choir in a varied and interesting programme.
Songs included a number of spirituals including ‘All my Trials’, ‘Steal Away’, ‘Everytime I feel the Spirit’ and ‘Deep River’, while also featured were Bob Chilcott and Duke Ellington items along with a variety of popular pieces like ‘The Skye Boat Song’, Freddie Mercury’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Memory‘ and ‘Over the Rainbow’ mixed with lively challenging and entertaining works like Eastymology and a more serious but familiar Locus Iste. These all helped to make the concert most enjoyable for performers and listeners.
The event was supported by Richard Hayward and well-known local musician and ABRSM examiner Vivien Laird closed the events with comments that reminded us of what a splendid day it had been. Her description of beautiful, crisp, well-balanced, well-shaped singing gave the singers credit where it was undoubtedly due. Rebecca Duckworth conducted two final pieces that exemplified the skills the singers had acquired in a sonorous, well phrased performance of ‘Steal Away’ and a lively performance of ‘Chattenooga Choo Choo’ that was indicative of the whole event – pure ‘fun.’
It is no surprise to learn that a future repeat of this event is being planned and if you are a young singer you might persuade your choir leader that you should come!
contact: www.

Janet Wheeler and Rebecca Duckworth

Janet Wheeler and Rebecca Duckworth

Jonathan Rogers

Jonathan Rogers

Roger Bond and Andrew Parnell

Roger Bond and Andrew Parnell
Rosemary Westwell

A Review of Ely Choral Society’s ‘Monteverdi ‘Vespers 1610’ concert in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 28th March 2015

March 29, 2015

There is nothing finer than pure, clear, well focused voices filling the huge vaults of a magnificent cathedral. Andrew Parnell knew this and on Saturday night we witnessed a highly successful manifestation of his vision. With uncanny skill, he inspired Ely Choral Society and Ely Youth Choir to re invigorated the sheer beauty of the 17th century composer Monteverdi’s music and presented a magnificent performance of his ‘Vespers 1610’ in Ely Cathedral, the ideal venue for such as occasion. In addition, he had the courage to move the choir stands in front of the octagon so that the sound would be sent straight down the nave and this made all the difference.
Sometimes branching into as many as 6 parts, the choir produced a powerful, exquisite mass of sound that flowed constantly, the inner workings providing continual interest and variation, revealing the favoured harmonies of the day, which were often decorated with well executed and integrated embellishments. Even though the score was one of the most difficult the choir has faced, they certainly rose to the occasion this time. Ely Youth Choir demonstrated significant improvement since when they were first begun and the clarity and strength of their singing was particularly impressive.
The English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble and Edmund Aldhouse on the chamber organ also added to the performance, the mellow tone of the instruments blending perfectly with the voices, so much so, that it is difficult to understand why these instruments are not being used to accompany singers still. Instruments like cornetti and recorders (played by Gawain Glenton, Sam Goble and Nick Perry), sackbuts (Miguel Tantos Sevillano, Claire McIntyre and Adrian France), violins (Pavlo Beznosiuk, Dominika Fehér and Melanie Woodcock) and theorbo (David Miller) often set the pace and scene or melted into the musical fabric to create magical effects.
A group of expert soloists from the Dmitri Ensemble enhanced the sound considerably and featured: sopranos: Helen Ashby and Kate Ashby, tenors: Aidan Coburn, Nicholas Scott, and Stefan Kennedy and basses: William Gaunt and Nicholas Mogg. The theorbo was a particularly sympathetic accompanying instrument to the soloists’ performances. It was easy to imagine we had moved back the centuries to listen to music of the highest quality of the day.
This was indeed a magnificent event.
The next event will be a Swing concert (with Cathedral Choirs, Ely Youth Choir, Ely Imps, Ely Cathedral Octagon Singers and Ely Consort) in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 13th June 2015
If you would like to be a friend of Ely Choral Society contact Frances Sell email:

December 8, 2013

Review of the concert entitled ‘Peace on Earth’ by Ely Choral Society and Ely Youth Choir in St. Mary’s Church, Ely on Sunday 8th December 2013

Andrew Parnell directed a highly enjoyable and uplifting evening celebrating the Christmas Season in St. Mary’s Church Ely on Sunday. The programme was very well designed and showed the choir at its best. Items seemed to include the usual Christmas Carol favourites until they were performed when we discovered that the traditional tunes were not always used. However, there was still plenty of opportunity for audience participation in the traditional carols we know such as ‘Once in Royal David’s City’, ‘Joy to the World’, ‘We Three Kings’ and ‘God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen’.

The first half of the programme interestingly featured mostly local composers including Andrew, Tim Alban-Jones, John Rutter, John Lawson Baker, David Ford, and Dr Arthur Wills, (Honorary President of Ely Choral Society). Their respective compositions were all very pleasing and well performed by the Choir and/or Ely Youth Choir. Rutter’s The Angel Carol’ sung by Ely Youth Choir was especially commendable with a fine baritone addition.  Dr Wills’ arrangement of ‘The Coventry Carol’ was one of the most spectacular that demonstrated how well Ely Choral Society can master Wills’ unique compositional style that has no holds barred when it comes to dramatic expression. Throughout the evening Edmund Aldhouse accompanied superbly on the church organ as required.

After interval Gustav Holst’s ‘’Christmas Day’ set the mood well and a series of carols and readings rounded the concert off beautifully. Highlights for me were ‘Mary’s Child’ by Geoffrey Ainger, arranged by William Llewellyn and what I know as ‘The Shepherd’s Farewell’ by Berlioz sung by the Ely Choral Society. The readings were also well chosen, reflecting the themes of ‘peace’ and ‘Christmas’ most appropriately. The readers included Sylvia Bulley, Jeremy Friend-Smith, Ellis Hociej, and John Bedford who read works by Henry Longfellow, John Betjeman, Maya Angelou and Seamus Heaney.

Ely Choral Society’s next event will be ‘Requiem and Vesperae Selennes de Confessore’ in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 12th April 2014 at 730 pm.

For further information contact

Review of Ely Choral Society’s ‘Monarchy Restored’ in the Lady Chapel, Ely Cathedral on Saturday 26th October 2013

November 6, 2013

In ‘Monarchy Restored’, Ely Choral Society, under the expert directorship of Andrew Parnell, brought alive the sense of joy and pleasure that music of the finest quality engenders. At the time of the Restoration the revival of music for the King and his court brought about the composition of a number of magnificent works. 

Composers featured included Henry Purcell, Jean-Baptiste Lully, Pelham Humphrey and John Blow. Ely Choral Society’s large chorus filled the Lady Chapel with glorious sounds, especially in the joyous, precise opening of ‘Jubilate Deo in D’ by Purcell, the highly effective expressiveness in ‘O Lord my God’ by Pelham Humphrey, the beauty of ‘Let Thy hand be strengthened’ by John Blow and in the grand finale of ‘Come ye Sons of Art’ by Purcell.  

The choir were joined by some excellent, well-selected musicians. The soloists were outstanding: Ashley Harries (counter-tenor), Mark Gotham (bass), David Calvert (tenor), Catriona Clark (soprano) and Karl Read (counter-tenor). They were supported by a first-class orchestra: The Ely Festival Players led by Helen Medlock. Edmund Aldhouse, a relatively new face to the musical community of Ely, accompanied sensitively and faultlessly on the organ.

Highlights for me were ‘Let Thy hand be strengthened’ and ‘Ode on the death of Mr Henry Purcell’ by John Blow and the final ‘Come ye Sons of Art’. The recorders and restrained impulse of the sonorous continuo (organ and cello) created a most impressive gentle homage to the great composer Purcell in the ‘Ode’ on his death.  Ashley Harries shone in the final ‘Come ye Sons of Art’ and the duet of the counter-tenors was especially effective. The contributions of Catriona Clark, Mark Gotham and the chorus in the final movement of this work brought this celebration of the restoration of the monarchy to a most fitting and glorious close. 

More events to enjoy include:

Ely Choral Society:

 Sunday 8th December 2013, 7 pm St Mary’s Church, Ely ‘Christmas Concert’

Saturday 12th April 2014, 7.30 pm Ely Cathedral ‘Requiem’ by Mozart

Saturday 12th July 2014, 7.30 pm Hayward Theatre, The Kings School Ely, ‘Concert version of Carmen, Bizet’


Ely Sinfonia:

Saturday 22nd March 2014, 730 pm, Ely Cathedral ‘An Elgar Celebration’


Ely Consort:

Saturday 30th November 2013, 730 pm, St. Andrew’s Church, Soham ‘Britten and Howells anniversaries and music for Advent’


Ely Youth Choir (conducted by Andrew Parnell):

16th November Ely Cathedral Christmas Fair guest appearance

8th December Ely Choral Society Christmas Concert

6th April 2014 Ely Youth Choir Festival

12th April Ely Choral Society Spring Concert

15th June Prom at the Palace – family concert the Old Palace

June Integrated Youth Choir – Fundraiser for Highfield School

12th July Carmen – Ely Choral Society Summer concert

(for more information about this choir contact or contact Ely Youth Choir’s Administrator Mrs Sylvia Bulley, tel: (01353 774733 ) or email: youth

Review of Ely Choral Society’s concert in Ely Cathedral Lady Chapel on Sunday 30th June 2013

July 8, 2013

On a rare warm summer’s evening there is nothing better than to attend a concert in Ely Cathedral’s Lady Chapel. Ely Choral Society’s event In Nature’s Realm on Saturday was indeed well worth attending. The programme was interesting and varied; the participants in fine form.

Conducted by Andrew Parnell, Ely Choral Society was joined by Ely Youth Choir and Jonathan Lilley (piano) to present works by Dvořák, Fauré, Debussy, Rutter, Britten, Ireland, Saint-Saëns, Elgar and Dillon.

Of Ely Choral Society’s offerings, Edward Elgar’s My Love Dwelt in a Northern Land, Spanish Serenade and As Torrents in Summer were their best. This choir seemed to have a special affinity for this composer and the parts moved in smooth blended harmony to produce delightful sounds. The other intriguing works the choir presented included Dvořák’s Songs of NatureFour Songs by Fauré, Five Flower Songs by Britten and Deux Choeurs by Saint-Saëns.

Ely Youth Choir are getting better and better and their songs were a charming addition to the programme this evening.  In Blue Mountain River by Cara Dillon arranged by P Hunt the parts gelled well and the solos delightful. John Rutter’s Look at the World flowed beautifully.

Jonathan Lilley added some magnificent solo items to the programme, selecting works that were most appropriate for the venue. Especially impressive were the works by Debussy: Les sons et les parfums tournent  dans l’air du soir and Jardins sous la pluie. The fluidity of the harmonies was well expressed and the pointed notes of the rain in the gardens in the second piece clearly portrayed. Jonathan’s phenomenal talent and technique were in no doubt as he played Ireland’s The Cherry Trees and The Palm and May. He revelled in the lyricism of the first piece and the luxurious rolls and flourishes in the second.  His accompanying as expected was supportive and faultless. He will be missed when he takes up a new post at Waltham Abbey in September.

Ely Choral Society’s next major event will be


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 Ely Choral Society and Ely youth Choir’s ‘Ceremony of Carols’ in St. Mary’s Church Ely on Saturday 3rd December 2011

December 4, 2011

We know the Christmas Season is definitely upon us when Andrew Parnell, Ely Choral Society and Ely Youth Choir present their customary Christmas Concert in St. Mary’s Church, Ely. Their concert this Saturday was a delightful introduction to this carol singing season.

Andrew Parnell is not only the renowned conductor of Ely Choral Society and Ely Youth Choir, he is also a composer and his arrangement of the carol ‘Adam lay ybounded’ was a splendid piece and is recommended to any budding choirs looking for a new carol. The lines were firm, the entries carefully shaped and the overall effect very pleasing indeed. There was no doubt that much of its success came from Andrew knowing the choir very well and with his inspiring conducting the lines were stretched and smoothed beautifully. The developing tone of the choir also helped to enhance the performance.

‘A ceremony of Carols’ by Benjamin Britten was then performed by both choirs. Ely Youth Choir opened with the ‘Procession’ from outside the church. They ‘processed’ to join the Choral Society which then burst into glorious sounds with a stirring ‘Wolcum Yole’. The gentler ‘There is no Rose’ followed which flowed smoothly and beautifully to lead into a lovely solo: ‘That Yongë Child’. Another worthy soloist led ‘Balulalow’ and the following ‘As Dew in Aprille’ was joyful and of some impact. ‘This Little Babe’ was a very lively piece and was well executed.  There was no doubt that in spite of Ely Choral Society being such a massive choir, Andrew drew from them the rapidity and excitement that would normally be expected of smaller, ‘manageable’ ensembles.

Jonathan Lilley, as always, accompanied superbly and managed to dash from piano to organ as the need arose without a hitch. He played the piano in this work and his clear and timely contribution helped to create pictures in the mind of the freezing winter night to match the opening words of this piece. There were moments when the pure quality of some of the voices in Ely Youth Choir was particularly noticeable.

Ely Youth Choir’s ‘Spring Carol’ was a very pleasant pastoral-like interlude before the massive choir brought matters to attention again with ‘Deo gracias’.

As Ely Youth Choir moved slowly out of the church while singing the Recession, we knew we had been entertained with a fine performance of this work.

A drink and a mince pie …

There is no doubt that Ely Choral Society is a choir of some standing. The church was soon packed and you are advised to book early for the next events:

Saturday 31st March, 7.30 p.m. ‘The Dream of Gerontius’ by Elgar in Ely Cathedral

Saturday 2nd June, 7.30 p.m. Concert to celebrate HM The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in Ely Cathedral


Rosemary Westwell

(The entire review may be viewed on in due course.)