Date: Saturday 19th November, 2016
Venue: Ely Methodist Church
Programme: There is Sweet Music
Featuring: Ely Consort, Conductor ~ Matthew Rudd, Piano ~ Charlie Penn & Violin ~ Hannah Mulholland
There’s always a good chance that you’ll make a new musical discovery at an Ely Consort concert. Conductor Matthew Rudd and his singers combine their performances of well-known repertoire with a commitment to exploring contemporary choral music from around the world.
At the group’s latest concert, There is Sweet Music, no less than seven living composers were represented, alongside Elgar and Massenet.
The evening’s performance of Ola Gjeilo’s Unicornis captivator is a perfect example of the pioneering spirit of the choir. Here is a thirty-something Norwegian composer living in Manhattan setting to music Swiss chants from 1400 about, among plenty of other things, a unicorn and a pelican. Performing a piece both rhythmically complicated and harmonically adventurous, the Ely Consort was technically precise and emotionally moving and exciting. Their marvellously clear singing led a rapt audience through the piece.
The group also gave an intensely lyrical performance of Eric Whitacre’s striking Five Hebrew Love Songs. These pieces are clearly inspired by folk music, and have a touching fragility about them. Here the choir was accompanied sensitively by violinist Hannah Mulholland and pianist Charlie Penn. The two instrumentalists also gave ravishing accounts of Massenet’s Meditation from Thais and Elgar’s Chansons (de Matin and de Nuit).
Even the evening’s sole visit to the choral music the early 20th century, Elgar’s There is sweet music, had a surprise up its sleeve. Elgar wrote the piece in two keys at once, the lower parts singing in G while the upper parts sing in A flat. Conductor Matthew Rudd gave the audience a quick music theory lesson to explain how Elgar did this. The performance showed, however, that this was much more than an exercise – it captured perfectly the yearning, elegiac quality of so much of Elgar’s music. It was easy to understand why the composer thought it ‘the best I have done’.
Bob Chilcott’s new Gloria (composed only last year) provided a fitting climax to the evening, the choir’s big, thrilling sound sending the audience out into a dank November night with some warmth in their veins.
Review: Graeme Curry
Group photo: Nick Kerry
Group photo: Nick Kerry