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Review: Ely Choral Society at the Hayward Theatre

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By Rosemary Westwell

‘A Summer Serenade’ was a very apt title for the concert given by Ely Choral Society on Sunday, July 10, at the Hayward Theatre. It was indeed a serenade of very beautiful music sung with pleasant phrasing and expression.

The Ely Youth Choir. Picture: Rosemary Westwell
The Ely Youth Choir. Picture: Rosemary Westwell

The programme consisted of works by English composers and many of the pieces reflected the charming tranquillity of an English summer. It was easy to imagine the sun shining on fields of flowers and long grass as the folk relaxed and thought of old times, singing of their fortunes in years past.

Ely Choral Society was joined by Ely Youth Choir, the Medlock String Quartet and accompanied by Paul Stephenson or John Wyatt on piano when required. Much of the success of this fine evening was due to the expertise and directorship of Andrew Parnell.

Some of the choral music was unaccompanied. The finest example of the unaccompanied works for me was Linden Lea, which was sung with momentum and noticeable alluring grace. Other songs by Vaughan Williams came from a group of Five English Folk Songs.

These included The Dark Eyed Sailor, The Spring Time of the Year, Just as the Tide was Flowing, the sad The Lover’s Ghost and the rollicking Wassail Song.

Ely Youth Choir joined in the last song and this excellent group of young singers sang beautifully and tunefully throughout. They sang Three British Folk Song Arrangements by Benjamin Britten on their own and they were a delight.

Andrew Parnell. Picture: Rosemary Westwell
Andrew Parnell. Picture: Rosemary Westwell

There were two sad songs: Down by the Salley Gardens and O Waly, Waly and a jolly children’s jape Oliver Cromwell. They also performed some very popular songs by John Lennon and Paul McCartney: All You Need is Love, Eleanor Rigby and With a Little Help from my Friends.

The Medlock Quartet added warmth, depth and charisma to the accompaniments and their own performances of Chanson de Nuit and later, Chanson de Matin by Edward Elgar demonstrated real skill in defining key melodic material and in playing as a cohesive group.

The pianists accompanied with true sensitivity and aplomb. In From the Bavarian Highlands op. 27, by Elgar, one accompaniment stood out particularly well – not only because of the expert performance by the instrumentalists, but because of its originality.

[Read more: Review: Ely Choral Society concert at Ely Cathedral]

It gave character to the song Lullaby, which was refreshingly light-hearted, and mellow with its rich alto entry. The Dance was also impressive with its infectious, joyful rhythm, making it real toe-tapping music.

The concert was performed in the presence of the Mayor of Ely, Richard Morgan, the Lady Mayoress, June Morgan, and the chairman of East Cambs District Council, Alan Sharp. The next event by Ely Choral Society to look forward to is a performance of Petite Messe Solennelle by Rossini on Saturday, October 22 at 7.30 pm in Ely Cathedral.

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