Posts Tagged ‘Hunts Phil’

Review of the Jubilee Concert in Ely Cathedral by Hunts Phil on Saturday 7th July

July 10, 2012

The octagon of Ely Cathedral was packed. A wonderful array of singers filled the stage, the performers coming from a number of different organizations to combine to give this magnificent concert for the Jubilee celebrations. The performers included Huntingdonshire Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra, St Ives Choral Society, Swavesey Community Choir, Members of Bedford Choral Society, The Boys’ Choir of All Saints’ Church, Northampton, Cottenham Village College Choir and members of Bromley Symphony Orchestra. 

The conductor, Adrian Brown showed great skill in managing this large throng. Other notable contributors were the soloists: Una Barry (soprano), Janet Shell (mezzo-soprano), Richard Reaville (tenor) and Alan Fairs (bass). The leader of the orchestra was Jane Foottit and the organist Julian Merson.

The concert opened with a most appropriate arrangement of the National Anthem by Britten. As we stood after the first chords sounded , the softness of the opening phrases drew us in, making us listen more intently to the words. Then the piece gradually built up to a glorious rousing end.

We sat down and settled in, ready for what promised to be a good concert.

‘Coronation Ode, op.44’ by Elgar began with a fanfare like declaration from the orchestra. The first movement, ‘Crown the King’ contained the first stirrings of Elgar’s very familiar ‘Land of Hope and Glory’. The excellent programme notes told us how after a performance of the Pomp and Circumstance March, King Edward suggested to Elgar that words should be put to the Trio section so that it could be sung. Thus began the ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ now used as a rousing climax to the Last Night of the Proms.  The Ode’s different movements reflected the nature of the Monarchy and the Nation. The power and strength of the monarchy came forth in the first movement: ‘Crown the King’ and the occurrence of the familiar ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ theme added to this glory. The second movement, ‘The Queen’, was gentle, warm and graceful. ‘Daughter of Ancient Kings’ that followed had a soft but resonant tone and long sustained phrases. Elgar’s ability to reflect the meaning of the words was particularly well shown in the ending of this movement with left the words ‘Mother of kings to be’ in unfinished mode.

The contrasting ‘Britain ask Thyself’ was a more dramatic and emphatic piece. The bass soloist gave it good measure and the urgent march-like qualities emphasized the words particularly well, especially ‘Britain, ask of thyself, see that they sons are strong.’

‘Hark, Upon the Hallowed Air’ and ‘Only Let the Heart be Pure’ followed and these movements were indeed hallowed as voices and orchestra softly pleaded, the soloists assuming a more dominant role.

One of the finest performances of this large group of musicians was in ‘Peace, gentle Peace’ which was a testament to the tremendous ability of the conductor who inspired a very moving and effective expression of quiet peace.

The work ended with a wonderful rousing performance of ‘Land of Hope and Glory’, slightly different to the one we know but definitely with the same message.

After interval the challenging ‘Te Deum, op.22’ by Berlioz filled the programme. This demanding work was well managed by these excellent musicians and the colour and expressiveness of Berlioz well highlighted. Every effect was explored delightfully and the sometimes haunting melancholy of his repetitive themes was well explored while his moments of drama and tremendous and exciting climaxes were thoroughly enjoyed by the performers, filling the Cathedral vaults with powerful sounds.

The was a magnificent celebratory event .

Huntingdonshire Philharmonic will next perform in a choral and orchestral concert on 10th November  which will include Parry’s ‘I was glad’, ‘Sea Drift’ by Delius sung by Laurence Melkle and ‘Symphony no 5’ by Vaughan Williams.


Rosemary Westwell

Review of The Dream of Gerontius performed by the Huntingdonshire Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra and St Ives Choral Society in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 26th June 2010

July 8, 2010

Ely Cathedral was the ideal venue for Hunts Phil and St. Ives Choral Society to perform Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius: an intense and vibrant exploration of the thoughts and process of a dying man. Under the baton of Musical Director Adrian Brown this impressively large group of musicians filled the cathedral with thought-provoking and moving sounds.

Neil Jenkins, once first tenor for the famous King’s Singers when he was a Choral Scholar at King’s College Cambridge, was an excellent choice for the role of the tormented Gerontius. His powerful voice coloured the words with great strength and passion while his diction was impeccable – every word rang clear, every emotional tinge given full value.

Edward Grint, also a previous choral scholar at King’s College Cambridge, gave the priest’s role power and conviction and his pleading tones as the Angel of Agony hinted appropriately the approaching final resolution.    

The choirs produced just the right balanced texture that conveyed the gentle reverence, demonic cynicism, climactic excitement or graceful acceptance that the words of Cardinal Newman’s poem demanded. Moments of Wagnerian super-charged drama were given full measure. The Choir of Angelicals was angelic indeed, sweetening deliciously the gently interwoven harmonies in the first Praise to the Holiest which transformed into a wonderful dramatic climax in its final version. 

Huntingdonshire Philharmonic orchestra established the worthiness of the performance at the outset.  The instrumentalists caught the emotional drive and cohesive magnetism of Elgar’s unusual Wagnerian-like sounds as they flowed continuously in an ever-developing, emotionally-charged manner. There were no parcelled arias and recitatives here. The soothing strings were especially effective at the beginning of Part 2 after the interval and brass, woodwind and flamboyant percussion coloured events magnificently.

Janet Shell was a magnificent Angel, her fine voice rising to the heights of the cathedral vaults, in soothing smoothly-shapely phrases.

This was indeed a momentous occasion.  

Forthcoming events by St Ives Choral Society include:

Annual Family Christmas Concert Saturday 18th December 2010

Handel: Dixit Dominus and Dettingen Te Deum Saturday 5th February 2011

Karl Jenkins Requiem Saturday 14th May 2011

Britten St Nicholas and Purcell Ode for St. Cecelia’s Day 2011

Contact St Ives Choral Society email:

Hunts Phil contact tel: 01487 824081