Posts Tagged ‘Howells’

Review: The King’s School Ely’s concert: ‘Christ the King’ in Ely Cathedral on Sunday 20th November 2011

November 28, 2011

The King’s School Ely’s concert, ‘Christ the King’ in Ely Cathedral on Sunday 20th November 2011, certainly came up to expectations. It was the epitome of distinction and ‘class’. The King’s School Chapel Choir, Chamber Choir and Barbers, Prime Brass and Jonathan Lilley (organ) under the directorship of Ian Sutcliffe presented an event that was of the highest quality and most fitting for the Cathedral and the time of year.

Positioned in the presbytery towards the east end of the building, the voices filled the vaults robustly and the brass and percussion rallied magnificently while Jonathan Lilley played the organ with his usual panache. …

The programme of mostly sacred pieces heralded the Christian religious Feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday of the church year – the one before the beginning of Advent. Composers included Finzi, Bullock, Mathias, Howells, Britten, Vaughan Williams, Tippett, Ireland, Bliss, Walker, Rose and Rutter – an array of some of the greatest.

The opening ‘God is gone up’ by Finzi brought matters to attention with vibrant fanfares from the brass and potent singing from the choir. It was interesting to note that the work had been arranged by the Director of Music at the Cathedral, Paul Trepte, who was in the audience at this concert.

The Bullock, ‘Give us the wings of faith’, brought out the most reflective quality of the choir, while ‘Lift up you heads’ by Mathias was punctuated with quirky attention-grabbing rhythms that never missed a beat. The mystery in the line ‘Who is this King of glory?’ was mesmerizing.

Jonathan gave ‘Rhapsody no. 3 in C sharp minor’ by Howells good measure, revelling in its moments of bombastic declaration that reflected the environment in which the composition was written – during Zeppelin raids which made it impossible for the composer to sleep. What better way to cope than to pen a composition of this magnitude! Jonathan’s skill brought out the cohesive quality of the work, enhancing the powerful effect of the regular poignant falling chromatic lines.

Then, suddenly, trumpets sounded from afar performing ‘Fanfare for St Edmundsbury ‘by Britten. The distant call of the trumpets reflected the environment for which the piece had been written originally. It had been written for the ‘Pageant of Magna Carta’ to be performed in the grounds of St Edmundsbury Cathedral, Bury St Edmunds. The three contrasting trumpet solos gelled perfectly in their final combined effort.

The men’s voices added warmth to Vaughan William’s ‘The Call’, while King’s Chapel Choir oozed luxurious harmonies in Tippett’s arrangement of the spiritual ‘Steal Away’. Ireland’s attractive writing was enhanced with the sheer beauty of the soprano and alto voices in ‘Ex ore innocentium’ and Prime Brass treated us to a vibrant snippet of theme music for a BBC series on British Architecture – ‘The Spirit of the Age’.

One notable factor of this event was the slick movements of various members of this large mass of performers. The opening strands of ‘I will lift up mine eyes’ by Walker came from beside us to the right and the effect of King’s Barbers’ expressive qualities made the piece very moving. Peter North’s expertise as their director was in no doubt.

With antiphonal effect, Barry Rose’s unaccompanied ‘Love’s Endeavour, Love’s Expense’ was sung by King’s Camber Choir to the left of us and the singers certainly brought out the charm and delicacy of the work.

The concert culminated with Rutter’s ‘Gloria’, a work of depth based on Gregorian chants. Choir, Prime Brass and organ performed magnificently, heightening the excitement and vitality of the first and third movements while pausing thoughtfully to reflect the prayerful central movement.

This was a magnificent concert and a testament of Ian Sutcliffe’s inspirational directorship and conducting. With music of this quality to aspire to, there will no doubt be a clamouring for The King’s School’s recently announced of scholarships for budding male singers in the sixth form.

The King’s School’s next major event will by the Charity Concert on Friday 2nd December 730 in the Hayward Theatre. Contact:  The Gibson Music School (01353 653931) email:

Rosemary Westwell

(note: the entire review may be found in due course on