Posts Tagged ‘Ely’

Review of Cambridge Voices; Bach to the Bard in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral on Monday 29th August 2016

August 30, 2016

Ian de Massini Aug 15 emailIan de Massini, Cambridge Voices and The Orchestra of the Age of Reason are rare musicians of undoubted talent and exceptional perception. Ian’s infectious enthusiasm and musical knowledge and know-how kept us enthralled with an amazing evening that was packed with exquisite gems. Under the title ‘Bach to the Bard’ we were indeed treated to much Bach (Ian de Massini-style) and a kaleidoscope of ‘Anniversary’ items (except for a touch of Puccini near the end). When I read in the beginning of the programme that first half ‘Comprises music (almost) exclusively Bach’ I knew we were in for an intriguing almost theatrical evening of music of the highest quality and complexity infused with the very likeable personality of Ian. Not satisfied with arranging most of the music, conducting and singing, he also played the harpsichord or organ as required. His musical genius was very much in evidence.

The voices of the choir were strong, pure and balanced exactly in close harmony, the instrumentalists in The Orchestra of the Age of Reason performed with virtuosic skill and sensitivity and the choreography as the choir moved about the Lady Chapel was stunning.

Heightened magical moments for me in the first half of the programme were the vivacious opening movement from Bach’s  Cantata no 94, the vibrant flutes in Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto no 4, the intense fugue at the end of the 3rd movement of ‘Singet dem Herrn’, ‘Jesu, joy of man’s desiring’ and the last movement from Cantata no 182.  After interval, I was especially impressed with the sheer joy of the spirituals, the most tasteful and appropriate arrangement of the Satie pieces, the charming Elizabethan Serenade, the beautifully gelled harmonies of Vaughan Williams’ ‘Full fathom five’ and the talent of Ian’s pupil Kilian Meissner playing solo viola in ‘The Voice of St. Columba’

This was a wonderful evening and I certainly look forward to Cambridge Voices coming next year to perform Duruflé’s ‘Requiem’.



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 the Lantern Dance Theatre Company performing the Fenland Suite an integrated dance performance at the Paradise Centre on Sunday 29th June 2014

July 1, 2014

ImageLantern Dance Theatre Company entertained a supportive audience in the Paradise Centre on Sunday with a wonderful performance of ‘Fenland Suite’. The group is an integrated contemporary dance company in which young people with and without disabilities train and perform on equal terms. There are about 20 members of which about half have a disability. With the help of Stopgap Dance Company, which ran a two-day workshop before the event, the standard reached was amazing.

The progamme included items called ‘Enigma’, ‘Aqua and Terra’, ‘Clear Space’, ‘Cocoon’ and ‘Weaving’ which all gave us a strong sense of the Fens landscape and history. ‘Clear Space’ was performed for the first time at this event and captured the architecture and atmosphere of Ely Cathedral well.  In ‘Enigma’ the dancers interacted cleverly designed reeds, creating moments of  mystery or militarism and leading to some highly credible watery effects. The natural flow of the choreography of ‘Aqua and Terra’ was especially impressive, while the huddle of bodies in ‘Cocoon’ was effective too. In ‘Weaving’ the choreography again was particularly well designed and one had the feeling that the movement and machinery involved in weaving was ever-present, while at the same time within the setting there was much variety that never detracted from a sense of continuity of the craft over the centuries.

The readings by Mike Rouse interspersed between the works and the atmospheric music helped to create moments of evocative intrigue about the Fens.  

Many locals will be impressed to know that Marcus Barcham-Stevens was commissioned to write the music for ‘Weaving’ and he led the Chroma Ensemble, the group that performed this potent piece.

The dancers and the staff who trained them are to be congratulated for such a fine performance. Credit should also be given to Helen Pettit’s, Jonathan Rogers’ (Producer) and their team of supporters.

For more information: contact:


Review: Ely Sinfonia playing Elgar in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 29th March 2014.

April 5, 2014

Steve Bingham has reached astounding levels of musicality with Ely Sinfonia. In the concert last night they were positively inspired and brought Elgar’s music alive with almost tangible excitement. While strong patriotism was present, what transfixed us was the sheer joy the musicians exuded as they revelled in Elgar’s sweeping phrases, emotional exuberance, lyrical tenacity and thrilling and colourful orchestration

‘Introduction and Allegro for Strings’ was magnificent, featuring The Cassia String Quartet and refining the music with precision and soul – even in the ‘devilish’ fugue. It was sheer magic.

The ‘Sea pictures’ were sung by the impressive mezzo-soprano Hannah Pedley. Voice and orchestra captured the messages and atmosphere of the poems beautifully.

The evening culminated with one of the most vibrant performances I have heard of the popular ‘Enigma Variations’. Highlights for me included the familiar seventh variation (Troyte) in which they created a fantastic storm, while the well-known ‘Nimrod’, the ninth variation, was particularly dynamic, maintaining its inherent potency with exquisite control.  All the other characters were there in full splendour including the charming Caroline Alice Elgar, the composer’s wife, the bombastic local squire who ‘spoke’ very energetically, the stammering Dora Penny and the accident-prone bulldog.

This was indeed a splendid evening.

The next performance by Ely Sinfonia will be as part of the Ely Festival and they will be presenting Mozart for Midsummer on Friday June 20th in Ely Cathedral Presbytery at 8 pm.


Review of ‘Hi-de-Hi’ by the City of Ely Amateur Dramatic Society at the City of Ely Community College on Thursday 20 February 2014.

February 20, 2014

It is always difficult presenting a show that everyone knows very well, but the City of Ely Amateur Dramatic Society had no trouble in providing a wonderfully entertaining production of ‘Hi-de-Hi’.
All the favourite characters were there: Gladys Pugh (played by Helen Williamson) fawned over her hesitant boss Jeffrey Fairbrother (Doug Stuart), the hyper-active wannabe-Yellow-Coat Peggy Ollerenshaw (Fiona Gilbert) had us in stitches as she vainly sought to rise to stardom and Barry and Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves (Nick Timmings and Sarah Boor) affected airs and graces while degenerating all too soon into catty bickering. Mr. Partridge (Patrick Cain) was very much set in his elderly ways frequently expressing his reluctance for the children he was supposed to entertain with a colourful two-word response. Fred Quilly (Graham Stark) had us believing that he emanated a whiff of his beloved horses wherever he went and Hilary Bovis (Anne Bowman) left her husband the showman Ted Bovis (Richard Dodd) in no doubt that he would never be rid of her demands for cash. Ted was always up to mischief, while Spike Dixon (Matt Harvey) made valiant attempts to save him from himself and Mr Pritchard (Mark Parr) was the epitome of the policeman at work, even though he was on holiday. Tracy Bentwood (Natalie Burton) and the rest of the yellow coats, Betty Whistler (Helena Scott), Dawn (Carol Hebbard) and Mavis (Chris Evans) made a splendid team while the roles of the Bailiff and Gary were splendidly played by Robert Stafford.
The other contributors that helped to make the evening special included Mark Parr and Trevor Gordon-Potts (Set Design and Build), Adam Hebbard (Lighting and Sound), Annabel Reddick and Staff (Box Office), Daniel Mansfield (Ely Standard), City of Ely College, Angela Spencer and Sit Team, D Stuart (Photos), Disguise Leisure Lines (costumes) Bridget Goodge and the King’s Ely Junior School.
Congratulations must go to the director Tony Ransome for such a wonderful show. I certainly look forward to the next one.
Auditions for their production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ this summer are on Monday 3rd March 2014, 7.30 – 9.00 pm, Ely Museum, The Old Gaol, Market Street, CB7 4LS.
For more information
Rosemary Westwell

Review of Fen Speak the Babylon Gallery in Ely on 19th Wednesday 2014

February 20, 2014

ADEC have definite struck a winner. The Fen Speak open mic session at the Babylon Gallery last Wednesday night was well supported with 21 budding poets and writers presenting their work. Contributors included Deb Curtis, Clive Semmens, Zoe Choileain, Richard McNally, Poppy Kleiser, JS Watts, Chris Morgan, Emma Ormond, Matthew Mansfield, Emma Danes, Mike Alderson, Pete Irving, Bob Sheed, Mary Livingstone, Jonathan Totman, William Alderson, Paul Quant, Tony McCormack, George Ashdown, Caroline Gilfillan and, of course, myself (Rosemary Westwell).
There were items for everyone, poems that were finely structured, verse that captured the imagination, dark moments dealing with serious issues and splendid moments of humour.

Some of the highlights for me included: Caroline Gilfillan’s imaginary description of the young Pepys journeying to his grammar school in Huntingdon, Richard McNally’s ‘My Devonian Girl’ which was straight from the heart, Emma Ormond’s very clever ‘Glove Bird’ complete with fascinating hand movements and Mike Alderson’s ‘Along a corridor’ tackling mental health issues. Phrases like ‘the sun never quite shines’ and ‘older than Belsen’ remain in my mind. There were also Bob Sheed’s entertaining ‘The Snake Oil Salesman’, Mary Livingstone’s poem that captured the cat perfectly, William Alderson’s ‘Anna’ containing memorable phrases like ‘ There is no greater summer than oneself’, and George Anderson’s take off of Mrs Bouquet.

Many of the contributors had entered the competition to be Poet Laureate of Ely and eagerly await the results on Wednesday 19th March.

The next Fen Speak at the Babylon Gallery will be on Wednesday 16th April.
for more information contact Leanne Moden email:

Review of ‘Winter Wonderland’ in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 7th December 2013

December 7, 2013

Ely Cathedral is the ideal venue for a ‘Winter Wonderland’ and the large appreciative audience was given a feast of music in the concert so named.

With the Director of Music of Ely Cathedral at the helm, we were bound to have a good time and indeed, we did. There was never a dull moment. Looking at the programme, we could see a lot of ‘old favourites’ but with nearly every performance, there was some kind of surprise awaiting us.

Ely Cathedral Choir was glorious as usual, and their unaccompanied songs were of the highest quality and included special versions of ‘Follow that Star’, ‘Winter Wonderland’, ‘Chestnuts Roasting’, ‘Mary’s Boychild’ and ‘Just Another Star’. ‘We need a little Christmas’ with piano accompaniment by Edmund Aldhouse was splendid.

Ely Imps and the choristers produced a beautiful sound when it was their turn and they featured in some very agreeable arrangements with the remainder of Ely Cathedral Choir and with the Band in ‘Mary’s Child’, ‘Have yourself a merry little Christmas’, ‘Angel told you to go’, ‘Away in a Manger’, ‘Coconut Carol’, and ‘Good King Wences-ska’. The alteration of the last familiar carol’s title is an indication of what happened frequently in this entertaining event. Familiar carols were given a make-over by local composer, band leader, keyboard player, Pat Brandon. He and his jazz band provided many interesting moments. The other band members were Paul Stubbs (trumpet and fluegelhorn), David Franklin (saxophones: soprano, tenor and baritone), Ivan Garford (double bass) and Derek Scurll (drums).

As we all joined in with ‘I’m dreaming of a White Christmas’, the ‘snow’ began to fall from up high in the octagon and the concert was brought to a fitting, seasonal close.   

The proceeds of the concert will benefit Ely Cathedral and Maggie’s Wallace. Maggie’s Wallace is a charity that supports people with cancer as described in a moving speech by a representative Alyson Luff immediately after interval.

Contacts for further information:

Maggie’s Wallace tel: 01223 249220

Ely Cathedral Choir tel: 01353 660336 or

Ely Imps tel: 01353 664470

Review of the King School Ely’s production of ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’ on Wednesday 4th December in the Hayward Theatre Ely

December 4, 2013

‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’, lyrics by Tim Rice, music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, is a school production that has certainly stood the test of time since its arrival in the ‘60s. This production by King’s Company played never missing an opportunity to exploit its kaleidoscopic possibilities.  From the ups and downs of Joseph, the shenanigans of the brothers and huge cultural variety ranging from Elvis (complete with that familiar curled lip and pulsating leg), hip-swaying calypso (complete with grass skirt and sudden arrive of a palm tree), luxuriating moments of melancholic French/Jewish nostalgia and a touch of the can-can  to American country and western, this highly colourful and entertaining show had all that it takes to captivate the audience while telling the story of Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat effectively. It was packed with wonderful characterization, smooth flowing tableaux of a phenomenal number of participants and no end of hilarious episodes that revelled in ‘taking the mick’ .

The music, songs and orchestra, was first-rate. Under the Directorship of Peter North, the singing was clear, expressive and moved gracefully and effectively into wonderful part-singing. The accompaniments were particularly well orchestrated and added considerable colour and comedy. Stage movements, choreography and timing were noticeably well designed and effective.

The performers were outstanding: Joseph (played by Elric Dowell), the three narrators (Fiona Campbell, Georgia Schneider and Anna Willis), Pharaoh (Matt Ley), Potiphar (Philip Hicks), Mrs. Potiphar (Emma Jones), Jacob and the brothers, the dancers, the chorus, and the Children’s Choir. They filled the stage with sheer joyous entertainment. It was no wonder nights were ‘sold out’!

Congratulations must go to Director Nick Huntingdon for such a successful effort from a joint senior and junior joint production.

After such a marvellous evening, we look forward to the events in March next year which include two separate intriguing productions: ‘Heritage’ and ‘Honk’.

Review of Anthony Brown (saxophone) and Leo Nicholson (piano) presenting a concert at the Hayward Theatre Ely on Friday 29th November 2013

November 30, 2013

It is impossible to get 100% in a music exam. After all it is so subjective. However, after tonight’s performance by these two amazing musicians, I had to agree that it is indeed feasible. All credit must go to Anthony Brown who demonstrated a phenomenal technique and highly musical approach to the saxophone, a much maligned instrument. He was accompanied by an equally talented pianist, Leo Nicholson and between them, they produced music that transfixed the listeners – it was so good. The synchronism they achieved was out of this world – no matter how tricky the run or the rests, they were always spot on.

The varied programme was action-packed and included works by Singelee, Piazzolla, Richard Rodney Bennett, Ibert, Maurice, Gershwin Debussy, Heath and Dubois. When the first saxophone flourish sounded we knew we were going to experience a wonderful concert. These two knew how to master the trickiest passages, the exacting articulation and the most sonorous  of passages. Highlights for me were Piazzolla’s ‘Histoire du Tango’: ‘Bordel 1900’ and ‘Cafe 1930’, Paule Maurice’s ‘Song for my Love’ and the ‘Flight of the Bumble Bee’ and ‘The Hare and the Tortoise’ by Dubois.

‘Bordel 1900’ was the first of many pieces that exuded magical rhythms brilliantly synchronised by these two highly talented performers. The tonal beauty of the saxophone was fully explored in ‘Cafe 1930’. We were soon transported into the dreamy, relaxed coffee haze of a well frequented cafe.

The tonal beauty of the saxophone was again brought to the fore in ‘Song for my Love’ while the frenetic buzz of a very busy bumble bee in ‘The Flight of the Bumble Bee’ was noticeable as these amazing performers whizzed through the demanding passages.

Dubois’ clever composing in ‘The Hare and the Tortoise’ was enhanced further by these musicians’ intense musical understanding. The languorous Tortoise, confident with his victory was well contrasted with the frantic energy of the fickle hare.

This was a wonderful concert and the encore was well deserved.

These two may be heard again in the Purcell room in London on the 9th January 2014. For more information contact

The next King’s School Ely Concert Society event will feature Tom Coulson (trumpet) and Christopher Baxter (piano) in the Recital Hall on Friday 17th January at 730 pm contact Lisa Bushell (01353 653931) email:

Review of Ely Youth Choir Festival Concert in the Hayward Theatre Ely Sunday 28th April 2013.

May 11, 2013


 Ely Youth Choir Festival Concert in the Hayward Theatre Ely on Sunday 28th April 2013 was a great success. North Suffolk Youth Choir, Cantiamo Youth Choir, and Ely Youth Choir gathered together for a day’s singing in a series of workshops as part of the inaugural Festival. The culmination of the event was a most uplifting concert.

The singers were in fine voice, creating moments of excitement and beauty. The concert opened with ‘Don’t stop believin’’ with the combined choirs singing under the directorship of Andrew Parnell. It was obvious from the start that these young singers were thoroughly enjoying themselves. Vetta Wise then conducted John Rutter’s ‘ Look at the World’. This song was particularly smooth and expressive. A lively performance of a Zimbabwean chant, ‘Freedom’, followed and an interesting arrangement of ‘Your Face’ by Bob Chilcott was the first for Roger Barns to conduct. Charlie Penn led the choirs in a moving and sustained performance of ‘In Remembrance’ by Daley,   Cantiamo proved a very competent choir as they mastered an intriguing, challenging and quirky arrangement of  ‘Waltzing Matilda’ by Bob Chilcott,

Accompanied by Alison Evans, North Suffolk Choir gave a worthy performance of ‘Sure on this shining night’ by Barber arranged by Dick Averre,. Their ‘Sanctus’ from Mass for Many Nations (by Lang) was delightful, the lively clapping section faultless. Ely Youth Choir gave a charming performance of  ‘Hallelujah’ by Cohen, and a lively rendition of ‘You Can’t stop the Beat’ from Hairspray by Shaiman. The grand finale of this most enjoyable concert was ‘Fly me to the Moon’ by Howard arranged by Shaw conducted by Charlie Penn.

Juliet Abrahamson, Director of the Cambridge Music Festival gave encouraging advice to the performers at the end of the event and mentioned what a good idea having a festival for youth was, and that the Cambridge Festival may feature one in the future.

Congratulations go to the Festival Director Jonathan Rogers  and we look forward to next year’s promised Youth Choir Festival.