Feel the Spirit

Date: Saturday 29th June, 2019
Venue: St Mary’s Church, Burwell
Programme: Feel the Spirit
Featuring: Ely Consort, Conductor ~ Matthew Rudd, Piano ~ Charlie Penn, Soham Village College Junior Choir, Jazz Quartet

There is no doubt about it. Ely Consort is an amazing choir. Under the skilled director, Matthew Rudd, this choir demonstrated that it could maintain and develop beautiful, well-managed sounds. We were told that one piece actually had up to 14 parts, but even then, a real sense of control infused the massive sound. This control came from the inherent musicality of the conductor and the choir members.

The programme was varied and impressive. The first half of the programme demonstrated the genuine skill of this phenomenal choir. Some of the works were particularly demanding but the expertise of these singers made light of every challenge. Highlights for me were ‘Live with me and be my love’ and ‘It was a lover and his lass’ from ‘Songs and Sonnets from Shakespeare’ by George Shearing. This music came from modern times and the accompaniment of piano (played by Charlie Penn) and bass (Joel Humann) brought the music alive. The fluidity and charm of ‘Live with me …’ and the light frivolity of ‘It was a lover …’ contrasted splendidly with the gorgeous harmonies of ‘Who is Sylvia?’ and the jagged impact of ‘Fie on Sinful Fantasy’.   

Two madrigals from the ‘Triumphs of Oriana’ (Elizabeth 1) were unaccompanied delights from Elizabeth 1’s time and we particularly enjoyed ‘A vesta was from Latmos Hill descending’ after Matthew explained how the composer Thomas Weelkes used word painting within this composition giving it an intriguing mischievous touch.

The climax of the evening came after the interval with John Rutter’s ‘Feel the Spirit’. We certainly felt the spirit with this marvellous performance which included students from Soham Village College. The highlights in this composition for me were: ‘Joshua fit the battle of Jericho’, ‘Steal away’ and the  final spiritual ‘When the saints go marching in’. We were soon in toe-tapping mood with the rousing opening bars of Joshua fit … . I am not ashamed to say the having suffered a recent bereavement, ‘Steal away’ was so beautifully arranged and sung that tears soon came to my eyes. Claire Stevenson  played her clarinet or saxophones magnificently and the joyous improvisatory nature of her contributions to ‘Deep river’ added a ‘wow’ factor. Derek Scurll enhanced the highly attractive rhythms with his drum playing.   

This was an excellent concert and we look forward to their next venture in Ely: ‘Cherubini: Requiem’ on Saturday 21st March 2020 in Ely Cathedral. Contact [email protected]  for more information.

Review: Rosemary Westwell

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