Ely Consort, directed by Matthew Rudd, gave a concert of astounding beauty recently.
The event took place, very appropriately, in the intimate setting of the presbytery at the east end of Ely Cathedral. We were made to feel very much a part of this profound musical experience.
The pieces performed were by Spencer, Harris, Bononcini, Gjeilo and Cherubini. Although a number of these composers are not very well known, their music was very approachable, meaningful and resonated with potent expression. The highly experienced and competent conductor valued every sustained passage and it was obvious that the choir members were thoroughly engrossed in the making of their mesmerising music.
The two works that opened the concert were unaccompanied compositions by Spencer and Harris. Williametta Spencer’s ‘At the Round Earth’s Imagined Corners’ was performed with polish and keen exploration of the contrasts. ‘Bring us O Lord’ by Sir William H. Harris, had tremendous depth achieved by the magnificent blending of two separate choirs.
In Giovanni Bononcini’s ‘When Soul was King Over Us’, the choir was joined by a small group of effective instrumentalists: a string quartet and a single harpsichord/piano player who worked well with the overall fabric of the music. This piece, perhaps more than any, created variety in the choice of solo groups of voices, strikingly different styles, including beginning with an emphatic dotted rhythm, or moving into moments of counterpoint.
The title itself was enough to indicate a work of powerful effect in Gjeilo’s ‘Luminous Night of Sound’. The work featured the piano as an integral and important ‘soloist’ that was soon joined almost imperceptibly by the equally important choir and other instrumentalists.
The crowning glory of the evening was ‘Requiem’ by Cherubini. The exquisite, soft tranquillity that these fine singers evoked was matched with the potency and dramatic effect of the climaxes produced. The keyboard performer, Roland Robertson, played the cathedral organ in this composition and was able to create some impact with this magnificent beast. This was indeed a work that epitomised the sentiments that we say to the dead: ‘Rest in peace’. The majority of the movements were sustained sounds of exquisitely gentle, reverence and awe, except for the Dies Irae with its frightening edgy drama from the organ and sinister ‘snapping’ voices from the choir.
This was indeed a most successful concert. We look forward to their next event: ‘The Grand Tour’ on Saturday 2nd July in St. Andrew’s Church Sutton. For more information, please search the web (including Facebook) for ‘Ely Consort’.
by Rosemary Westwell