Organists In Concert

The King’s School Ely created new interest in the much maligned instrument: the organ. In Prior Crauden’s Undercroft, within sight of Ely Cathedral, a sizeable audience had the opportunity to watch a series of organists close at hand in a concert entitled “Bombarde of Organists 111”. To see fingers flying over four manual, feet gliding rapidly up and down the pedal board and hands rapidly changing stops gave new zest to a promising programme.

Arrangements of works by Elgar held a prominent position. Paul Trepte, Director of Music at Ely Cathedral, opened the event with excerpts from “Sonata no.2 in Bb: Severn Suite”. Jonathan Lilley, Assistant Organist at Ely Cathedral, played “Serenade for Strings – Larghetto” and “Triumphal March from Caractacus”. These two first-class musicians breathed life into the instrument showing how versatile, powerful and expressive the instrument can be – arguably more than the ever-popular piano.

Saint-Saëns was another favoured composer. Edward Taylor gave a fine performance of his “Seventh Improvisation” from the work of the same name. Will Gardner gave a masterful performance of “Recession” by Mathais, Farrel Gray clearly marked the separate voices of JS Bach’s work, David Tagg-Oram revelled in the strong chords of Stanford and Benedict Todd introduced a fascinating array of effects in items by Couperin.
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Brittle Women Review

Stretham Players certainly know how to entertain. In a packed house, the contrasting characters of Trisha (played by Barbara Gray), Liz (Carole Gentry), Viv (Maureen Hutter) and Mary (Donna Bright) bonded together delightfully in a skilfully written play by Lindsey McAuley. There was no doubt why the play called ‘Brittle Women’ was voted “Best New Play” at the Cambridge Drama Festival 2007.

This one act show was permeated with a constant flow of humour in the guise of witty turns of phrase, humorous situations and a healthy good laugh at the frailty of human nature. This was balanced well with explorations into the darker sides of life and death such as the devastating effects of cancer and bereavement.

Chatterbox Liz with a phenomenal number of lines to learn filled the stage with her warmth and her joy in the trivialities of every day matters. Glam puss Viv described as “mutton dressed up as lamb” had us roaring with laughter at her obsession with the opposite sex and her failed plot to seduce the new vicar.
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The Band of the Parachute Regiment in Ely

The Band of the Parachute Regiment commemorated the 25th Anniversary of the Falklands conflict with a magnificent concert in Ely Cathedral. Dressed in vibrant red, these skilful musicians filled the Cathedral with glorious sound. They presented a series of spirited and moving pieces with dazzling precision.

Under the directorship of Captain Glen Jones and WO1 (BM) Freeborn, this band demonstrated tremendous agility and versatility. In the opening and closing procession of standard bearers, the “Dambusters March” never lost momentum while in “A Festive Overture” by Reed contrasting moods and textures were fully explored.

The vibrant atmosphere in the Cathedral was further enhanced with challenging contemporary pieces such as music from the “Pirates of the Caribbean”. The compelling percussive beats foretold doom and destruction.

Solos were astutely included in the programme. The first movement of Martin Ellerby’s Clarinet Concerto was phenomenal. The technical gymnastics this piece demanded in its tightly constructed short and detached phrases were rapidly and cleanly executed by the soloist and the band. Other notable solos were the trumpet and alto saxophone solos. The trumpet solo reflected beautifully the name of the piece: “Brilliance” by Barker. Clear articulation and controlled brilliance smoothly evoked its pure Brazilian character. The mellow tones of the alto saxophone solo evocatively presented “Carnival” by Sparkse and a euphonium duet added new warmth to the poignant song: “Softly as I leave you” by Devitas.
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Kings Junior School Ely Perform ‘My Fair Lady’

“My Fair Lady” presented by The King Junior School Ely in the Hayward Theatre was a splendid occasion. The young cast exuded confidence and talent and the characters of this well known musical were brought to life. Eliza Doolittle (Sophie Emms) and Professor Higgins (Oliver Hill) especially were delightfully authentic and dynamic. Sophie’s raucous cries in broad cockney vowels were fantastic. Her outbursts of anger, her strong singing and her interaction with Professor Higgins in the final scenes were outstanding. Oliver’s portrayal of someone way beyond his chronological age was superb. His sense of authority and superiority, his affectations, his stance, his sensitive timing and his excellent singing all contributed to a highly effective and thoroughly enjoyable show.

Colonel Pickering (Leo Banahan) was a cheerful voice of reason for the self-orientated professor and Mrs. Hopkins (Sally Cheng) was a tolerant housekeeper, mindful of Liza’s needs as well as those of her employer. Mrs. Higgins (Lydia Crussell) encumbered with her wayward son spoke with rare distinction and the mature wisdom of an understanding parent.

One of the most endearing characters was undoubtedly Alfred P. Doolittle (Charles Ewing) whose unique philosophy of life, bereft of moral virtue, coloured his accomplished performance as he filled the stage with delightful cockney audacity.
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Ely Book Launch For Patrick Lennon’s Corn Dolls

April 19th see the book launch of Corn Dolls, a chilling and atmospheric debut from an exciting new talent in crime fiction, Patrick Lennon.

Image: Corn Dolls

Set in Cambridge and surrounding fenland, Corn Dolls begins for detectives Tom Fletcher and Sal Moresby with what looks like a very bloody accident in a farm machinery showroom, and reaches back into the past – his own and that of the local police force – before slamming into the present with all the force of the most up-to-date criminal power in the world. Crackling with secrets and surprises, packed with haunting landscapes and haunted characters, freighted with the hot, thundery atmosphere of a Cambridge summer and the inevitable paying-out of past betrayals.

There will be a book launch event at Topping & Co bookshop, 9 High Street, Ely on Wednesday May 8th where you can come and meet debut author Patrick Lennon. There will be a wine reception.

To reserve a ticket contact the bookshop: 01353 645005 or email:

Ely Online will be reviewing the book shortly.
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Ely Sinfonia in Ely Cathedral

Image: Ely Sinfonia

Ely Sinfonia presented a refreshing concert in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 3rd March 2007. An attractive programme of music with Spanish connections offered works by Chabrier, Rodrigo and Dvorak that were both appealing and challenging.

“España-Rhapsody for Orchestra” by Chabrier provided a fitting attention-seeking opening to events. The tantalizing variety of rhythms and colours in this work were brought alive in the hands of conductor Peter Britton. His ease on the platform and the suave precision that permeated his conducting style inspired great works from the orchestral members.

David Massey was a youthful but formidable solo guitarist. His capacity to sail through swift passages with unerring effortlessness and his command of the tremendous variety of styles and techniques his performances demanded, thrilled the packed audience. He positively stirred the hear-strings in Rodrigo’s “Fantasia para un gentilhombre” and his firm exploration of the deeper tones of the instrument was awe-inspiring.

Ely Sinfonia accompanied David with measured skill and this splendid orchestra had by now proved to be highly accomplished – able to work cohesively and effectively incorporating many highly skilled solo passages that gave the virtuosic flourishes and more sonorous, contemplative episodes excellent value.
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Book Review: Full with Wills by Arthur Wills

Full with Wills: My Life in My Music: A Memoir by Arthur Wills OBE

Image: Full with Wills: My Life in My Music: A Memoir

In this book, Dr Arthur Wills tells the tale of his humble beginnings in Coventry as a young boy who knew he would spend his life as a composer/performer and how his world blossomed into an exulted life of fulfilment through his music.

It is impossible not to respond to Arthur Wills when reading this recently launched autobiography. The book is certainly a good read and appears at the outset to accomplish just what the preface states: “to relate the story of [Arthur’s] life with reference to the compositions which demonstrate the complex interweaving of the life and the work …”. However, it accomplishes far more than this. Within this amazing whirlwind of a tale, the engaging personality of this musical giant emerges with sparkling directness. As you become mesmerised with the phenomenal stamina and complexity of this highly gifted composer/performer you are brought to immediate attention with his jovially-disguised statements of belief that attack the very heart of musical complacency.

With a no holds barred’ approach, very little is left untouched as the vicissitudes of a composer and performer’s life in the highest echelons of the musical world feed accounts of his varied of experiences of different venues, instruments and administrators. At the same time, in an almost confrontational way, his acute perception raises political issues ranging from the addition of female voices to cathedral choir ranks and women clergy, the adoption of modern service books, publishing, the workings of the BBC and ITV, the standards of current music examinations and temperamental soloists to the over riding importance of high art.
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