A musical journey to the frozen north

Ely Cathedral, Saturday September 24th


If you haven’t heard a piece of music in which the soloists are birds – real ones – here’s your chance. Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara based his Cantus Arcticus on recordings taken near the Arctic Circle and in the bogs outside the town of Liminka in northern Finland.  The result is utterly beautiful and surreal, a conversation between the real, represented by the orchestra, and the dreamlike songs of cranes, larks, geese and whooper swans, played all round the Cathedral in surround sound.

We are also thrilled to be joined by Britten Sinfonia’s co-principal flautist, Thomas Hancox, to play Carl Nielsen’s delightful Flute Concerto. Combining piquancy with drive and humour, it is both sophisticated and graceful, demanding virtuoso playing and delicate musicianship from the soloist.

Finally, bask in the lush romanticism of Sibelius’ Symphony no 1 in E minor, a piece filled with pathos and Nordic chill redolent of the fact that it was written just as the Russian Tsar Nicholas II was curtailing Finland’s self-governance.


‘Thomas Hancox enjoys complete technical control, his phrasing is awesome, his tonal quality in all registers is beguiling and he communicates informatively and humorously with his admirers’

The Westmorland Gazette


‘An amazing and memorable experience’

These were the words of journalist and blogger Rosemary Westwell about Ely Sinfonia’s concert on Saturday 30th April 2022.  She said “It’s at times like these that we really appreciate the first-rate concerts that we have in our magnificent Ely Cathedral.”

In our first full orchestral concert since lockdown, we played two pieces, Dvořák’s Serenade for Strings and Mahler’s Symphony No 1, arguably one of the greatest musical treats in the orchestral repertoire.

About the Dvořák, Rosemary commented that “The richness of the massed stringed instruments was infused with warmth. This charming work in the hands of these fine instrumentalists took us on an amazing, varied journey ranging from joyful emotional heights, rhythmic buoyancy, rapid sweeping climaxes to delicate wistfulness. ”

She was equally impressed by the Mahler, which she said: “(it) gave us much to think about and as I left the concert, my mind was still buzzing with the excitement of the work.  All life was here and such meaningful effects were only possible through the unsurmountable skill and dedication of these excellent instruments led by their phenomenal conductor, Steve Bingham.”

We would like to thank everyone whose help made this wonderful concert possible.

To download and print the programme, please click here.  Please note that this is designed to print on A4 paper on both sides and for the pages to fall into the right order once the sheets have been assembled.

To download Rosemary’s full review, please click here.


Looking further ahead ….

To avoid disappointment, do put the following dates into your diary now:


29th April 2023    Continuing the travel and avian themes, “A European Journey” will include Malcolm Arnold’s Peterloo overture, Respighi’s “The Birds” suite, Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony no 6 (Pathetique).

8th July 2023   A joint concert with Ely Choral Society

23rd September 2023

4th May 2024

21st September 2024

The programmes for these aren’t finalised yet, but pieces and composers under discussion include Walton’s 1st Symphony, Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony, symphonies by Beethoven and Vaughan Williams, John Adams’ Short Ride in a Fast Machine and film music.

We’ll also be joining the choirs of Ely Cathedral to perform Durufle’s Requiem for the Remembrance Day orchestral evensong and for their Hark the Herald concert just before Christmas.  Further details will be available in due course.