Review: Serenade to Music (2023)

“If ever there was a serenade to music, there was this concert. Ely Choral Society and Ely Sinfonia with a full complement of performers, combined to give rich resonance to the gorgeous melodic material and full harmonies offered by many of the compositions.

The most mesmerising works were Fantasia on Greensleeves and Serenade to Music by Ralph Vaughan Williams. When I heard the flute and harp begin the opening Fantasia on Greensleeves I knew we were in for an evening of very high-quality music: the very reason for us attending a live performance when the quality of the music is so much more noticeable. This was followed by an exquisite warmth from the strings that lead us into the familiar Greensleeves melody. We were transfixed.

I thought that the Beethoven pieces offered would be more mundane, less sophisticated items, but they proved their worth with the excitement and new life that the conductors, Steve Bingham and Andrew Parnell, managed to infuse in this 19th century composer’s works. Symphony number 8 conducted by Steve Bingham was particularly alive.

The Choral Fantasia by Beethoven was well managed by conductor Andrew Parnell and much of the opening gave the solo pianist, Natalia Williams-Wandoch, a chance to flourish while typical Beethoven contrast and agile runs gave moments of fine virtuosic display. The real message of the work came when the choir quietly entered, only to build up to raise joyous extolling of the beauty of nature in typical Beethoven style.

A more modern approach to full texture and many-noted chords was provided by Bob Chilcott’s Canticles of Light when there were more obvious clashes included within the texture. The choir rose to the challenge magnificently and the Youth Choir’s angelic singing above was wonderful.

This was indeed a most successful concert and one day many more local people will come to realize that there is no need to travel great distances to hear excellent music – they only need to come to Ely Cathedral to hear Ely Choral Society and Ely Sinfonia in action.

Ely Sinfonia’s next concert is on Saturday 23rd September 2023 in Ely Cathedral. They will perform Ravel’s Bolero, Gershwin’s An American in Paris and Saint-Saens’ Organ Symphony.”

Rosemary Westwell