Ely Consort can trace its history back to the late 1980s, when the need for a chamber-
size choir in Ely was recognised by Aidan Fairlie, then a lay clerk at Ely Cathedral and
director of the Ely Choral Society.
Aidan formed St Mary’s Chamber Choir (SMCC) in 1987, which gave a number of
well-received concerts during the late eighties and early nineties – the St Mary’s
name coming from Ely’s parish church, where the choir often performed. A very few
current singers – including the present Chairman, John Simmons, date their
involvement back to this time!
Following Aidan’s departure from Ely, SMCC was directed by a series of highly-
regarded local musicians, including Graham Griggs (King’s School Ely) and New
Zealander, Peter de Blois, during his time as tenor lay clerk at Ely.
In 1994, it was decided to formally wind up the old choir and re-launch under a new
name. The name ‘Ely Consort’ was the idea of John Simmons and the director
designate, David Price.
David was at the time Assistant Organist of Ely Cathedral. The choir’s debut under
David’s direction took place on Friday 16th December 1994, in the Cathedral’s
presbytery. The programme included Vivaldi’s Gloria, Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia
on Christmas Carols and works by Tavener and Arthur Wills. The choir numbered
twenty-seven for the performance.
A number of highly successful concerts followed over the next few years, until
David’s departure for Portsmouth Cathedral upon his appointment there to the post
of Organist and Master of the Choristers, a post he still holds. David’s successors in
the post of Assistant Organist at Ely directed our choir in a number of well-received
concerts until 2002 – and the appointment of Matthew Rudd.
At the time Matthew was a music teacher at Perse Girls’ School in Cambridge.
Matthew sang with the noted Cambridge Chorale and played trumpet in various local
orchestras. Matthew has since become Head of Music at what is now the Stephen
Perse Foundation and he has staged an ambitious programme of major concerts and
events there – see Matthew’s separate biographical note.
Our first concert under Matthew’s direction took place in St Peter’s Church, Ely, on
Saturday 14th December 2002. It included Charpentier’s Messe de Minuit as its
major work. Rehearsing regularly under Matthew on Thursdays at the King’s
School’s Recital Hall, the choir has since produced a string of accomplished
performances ranging widely in style from Bach to Broadway! We have been pleased
to work with a number of talented local musicians as soloists, although sometimes
solo parts are taken by members of the choir.
Regular venues beside Ely Cathedral have included Ely Methodist Church, parish
churches at Sutton, Burwell, Chippenham, Cottenham and Soham and ventures
further afield to Chatteris, and Lavenham in Suffolk.
Amongst our recent highlights have been collaborations with Steve Bingham and his
Con Brio Chamber Orchestra in performances of selections from Handel’s Messiah.
We have been pleased to commission works by Will Todd and the Canadian
composer Sarah Quartel.
The choir endeavours to go on tour every other year and visits have been made over
the years to Poland twice (Krakow and Gdansk), the Rhineland, the Loire Valley and
Belgium. This year the choir is about to undertake a short tour to Tuscany, first
planned for 2020 prior to the COVID-enforced break in our programme.
The choir has recently achieved charitable status and seeks to work to develop
understanding, appreciation and participation in choral music in Ely and district.
As we celebrate 20 years under Matthew’s direction at the end of 2022, we see the
choir in a rebuilding phase following the pandemic. We are busy constructing a new
and exciting programme for the 2022-3 season and beyond – if you have a suitable
venue capable of housing a choir of 35-40 plus instrumentalists and would like us to
visit then please contact us via the website!
John Simmons, Chair of Trustees (2022)