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Review: Ely Choral Society’s Christmas Concert, Ely Cathedral.

Ely Youth Choir are producing a charming sound

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On Saturday 16th December 2023, Ely Choral Society, and Ely Youth Choir under the directorship of Andrew Parnell, gave an excellent carol concert in the presbytery of Ely Cathedral. The organist, Edmund Aldhouse, stepped in at the last moment when Glen Dempsey, became unwell.

It was a testament to Edmund’s great talent that his accompaniments remained first class.

The Choral Society’s Christmas concert is usually held in St Mary’s Church, but this year the venue was changed to the presbytery of Ely Cathedral which created a different feel.

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Although it was indeed just as enjoyable as previously, it also gave us a sense of being more intimately involved in the meaningful messages of the Christmas music.

The concert opened with the choir singing a short declarative piece with a wide variety of sounds and expressions that the choir managed perfectly.

It was as if it announced the central theme of the concert: Glory to God in the Heights of Heaven. The opening, canon-like flourish moved towards glorious angelic sounds and finally faded gently to a whisper. This gem gave an immediate indication of the conductor’s and choirs’ talent.

Conductor, Andrew Parnell, and the organist Edmund Aldhouse

Conductor, Andrew Parnell, and the organist Edmund Aldhouse

The was followed by a carol sequence by William Matthias. Here we had challenging moments of complex harmonies, which were managed by the choir with ease.

These carols again needed a variety of dynamics and expressions and again, this fine choir rose to the occasion with aplomb. Ely Youth Choir joined them In the final piece: Sir Christesmas, their youthful voices adding colour to the already secure lines.

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Then there was a change of culture and we moved to the more classical style of writing of Felix Mendelssohn and his sonorous melodies. Andrew, with typical courage and understanding, included in the programme three movements from an unfinished oratorio by Mendelssohn: Christus.

The opening solo, then the trio and finally the chorus were a charming development and in the end we were brought down to earth with the familiar Chorale: How brightly beams the Morning Star.

After interval, we were integrated into a very enjoyable celebration of Christmas with carols for us to sing and very pleasant ones to listen to, which were interspersed with entertaining and uplifting readings.

The first of the carols for us to join in with, was the familiar O Come all Ye Faithful. We also joined the choir to sing While Shepherds Watched their Flocks by Night, to a different tune than the one we are used to, It Came upon the Midnight Clear, arranged by Barry Rose, and God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen, arranged by William Llewellyn

The choir sang the following on their own: Adam lay y bounden by Boris Ord, Gabriel’s Message, a Basque carol arranged by Edgar Pettman, Joy shall be yours in the morning by H. Fraser-Simson and the familiar, Past three o’clock London tune arranged by Charles Wood.

The choir ended this most uplifting night with a quiet, calm, work by Carl Shalk: Before the Marvel of the Night.

Ely Youth Choir are producing a charming sound, and it was good to hear them singing on their own: Ave Maria by Simon Lindley, Christmas Day by Elizabeth Poston, and From the Eastern Mountains by the conductor, Andrew Parnell. Andrew’s guidance and support for them is obviously paying dividends and they are growing from strength to strength.

This was indeed a very pleasant evening of Carols for All, and we look forward to hearing them again on Saturday 20th April in Ely Cathedral featuring the Bach Magnificat and the Haydn Nelson Mass.

 

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