The Passing of the Year

Date: Saturday 11th March, 2018
Venue: Ely Methodist Church
Programme: The Passing of the year
Featuring: Ely Consort, Conductor ~ Matthew Rudd, Piano ~ Charlie Penn & Flute ~ Cherry Blanchard

    The Passing of the Year – Ely Consort

Midway through the Ely Consort’s ‘evening of poetic music’ the choir gave a luminous performance of music by Morten Lauridsen – ‘Sure on this shining night, I weep for wonder’. There was plenty for the audience to wonder at in this concert of settings of great poetry, with words by Shakespeare, Byron, Tennyson and others.

The choir has long championed contemporary music, and most of the evening’s pieces were by living British composers. The choir’s elegant performances of works by Malcolm Archer and Alexander L’Estrange placed them in the English cathedral choral tradition, creating a bluesy, yearning melancholy reminiscent of Howells and Vaughan Williams.

The mood of the concert changed in the second half. As well as exploring American repertoire, the choir rose to the challenge of Jonathan Dove’s The Passing of the Year, described by conductor Matthew Rudd as ‘one of the hardest pieces we’ve done’.

Here the singers were split into two four-part choirs, and blocks of sound and intricate rhythms flew between the sets of singers. The music was full of drama – one moment expansive, the next intimate – and the Ely Consort captured these changes of mood with precise and, at times, rapt singing. Dove’s exultant setting of Tennyson’s ‘Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky’ was a perfect way to send a happy audience out into a calm Ely evening.

Between the choral pieces, flautist Cherry Blanchard and pianist Charlie Penn (who also tackled with ease the virtuosic piano part in the Dove) performed French music by Debussy, Poulenc and Gaubert, a perfect complement to the choral pieces.

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