Date: Saturday 2nd July, 2017
Venue: St Marys Church, Burwell
Programme: Mass in Blue
Featuring: Ely Consort with Conductor ~ Matthew Rudd, Piano ~ Charlie Penn & Soprano ~ Eleanor Bowers-Jolley, Double Bass ~ Joel Humann, Drums ~ Derek Scrull, Saxophone ~ Claire Stevenson
The Ely Consort celebrated the summer on a golden evening, singing both inside and outside St Mary’s Church in Burwell.
In the first half, the choir was joined by soprano Elenor Bowers-Jolley and a jazz quartet for a performance of Will Todd’s genre-bending Mass in Blue.
It’s easy to understand why the piece has been performed more than 100 times since its premiere in 2003. The setting of the Latin words of the mass to a blues score is ingenious. In the Gloria, a plainsong chant dissolves into a driven jazz rhythm, while in the Benedictus the higher parts of the choir become members of the band, singing jazz riffs above a ground bass. At other times the saxophone or solo soprano soars high above the choral texture. This constantly shifting relationship between singers and players gave the whole performance a wonderful spontaneity.
The choir displayed its many talents here, negotiating the swung rhythms with ease and producing the beautiful tone needed in the mass’s more reflective sections. At the triumphant conclusion, when the Et Resurrexit section of the Credo returns, the church’s carved medieval roof stayed on, but only just.
The choir moved outside for the second half, serenading the picnicking audience with a selection of part-songs, old and new. During the choir’s close-harmony rendition of Billy Joel’s And so it goes, the church’s ancient stones were suddenly lit up by the honeyed tones of the setting sun. And so it went – a picnic and a feast of music on lovely summer’s evening.