The Island Project

On 21 March 2015, Ely Sinfonia took part in an extremely special concert in Ely Cathedral. The orchestra played two new commissions, in part developed by orchestra member Jeremy Harmer, which featured choirs from the local area. Read more for details about Island and Hereward the Wake which were performed in March. For more information, including how to get involved and perform either work in the future, please contact A copy of the programme can be found here, and the text for Hereward can be found here.


By Jeremy Harmer and Phil Toms, Commissioned by Ely Sinfonia 

Written to coincide with the ‘anniversary’ of the First World War, Island is an original work for narrator, child and adult soloists, choir and orchestra which tells a story of conflict which is resolved, in the end, through music because “Once people have made music together, once people have sung the same songs together in beautiful harmony then maybe they will never be enemies ever again.” Island is designed to be a focus for music education and is an ideal work to provoke musical engagement and participation for all children. It is hoped it can act as a catalyst for a number of discussions, investigations and projects about its themes of anger, conflict resolution, the use of the world’s precious resources – and the involvement of young people in war. But above all, Island is a work brimming with humour, pathos and accessible beautiful music which tugs at the heart, and offers a wonderful experience of music and performance for both participants and audience alike.

Jeremy Harmer is a successful writer, especially in the field of English as a foreign language (ELT). He is also a performing musician, singer-songwriter and spoken-word performer.

Phil Toms is a performing musician, composer and arranger who has taught extensively at both primary and secondary levels. He is currently Head of Digital Media at Colchester Institute.


By Richard Brown, Commissioned by Linda Fairbrother,  High Sheriff of Cambridgeshire

Hereward is a dramatic, accessible piece of music to be enjoyed by singers, players and percussionists of all ages. With words from Charles Kingsley’s poems about Hereward and original Anglo Saxon battle cries to add drama to the story of the battles in the fens around Ely, the piece comes to a close with a Latin Dona Nobis Pacem to signify the eventual acceptance of defeat and reconciliation between the enemies. Hereward the Wake invites discussion of conflict and resolution; Hereward makes peace with his bitterest enemy in order to help him govern better for the good of all. It also provides a starting point for historical exploration as well as opportunities for further musical activities.

Richard Brown was Musical Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company for many years, and is expert in creating memorably atmospheric music that is exciting and beautiful.