6th December 2014
'Noel - Carols From Europe' in St. Mary's Church, Ely
Choral Society's Christmas Concert 'Noel' n St. Mary's Church on Saturday 6th December 2014 was a resounding success. A carefully chosen programme provided variety including some good quality selections, some new challenging music as well as a number of old favourites that roused the audience into exuberant singing when it was their turn to participate. Much of the music came from different European sources, with the choir singing in English as expected as well as Dutch, French and Latin at different times.Ely Choral Society produced a good sound with moments of real beauty when the parts gelled in luscious harmony, often apparent in the unaccompanied works. The conductor and composer, Andrew Parnell, encouraged effective expression from the choir, producing smooth sustained phrasing and clear focused notes. In the joyful 'Zither Carol' that ended the first half of the programme the choir showed the amazing ability to sing at a rapid speed, while maintaining unequivocally clear diction and a feeling that the music was buoyant and not rushed.
Edmund Aldhouse provided unstintingly secure accompaniment on organ or piano and his solo piece was highly amusing. After the choir had sung 'King Jesus hath a garden' beautifully, he played variations on the same tune by F. Peeters. The work demanded real coordination and concentration, with the parts sometimes appearing to have nothing to do with each other. However, in Edmund's hands nothing was lost and the humour of the piece triumphed.
It is always delightful to see the young singers and the Youth Choir did a very good job, especially in 'Hurrying to Bethlehem' arranged by W. Lutoslawski. Their youthful voices maintained the tune magnificently, even though there were planned discords in the piano.
There were a number of very interesting and varied readings in the second half of the programme that helped make the evening a special 'Christmassy' event. These included a poem form World War 1, 'O Christmas Tree', an excerpt from Cider with Rosie and 'Christmas Pudding' by Nancy Mitford.
The evening culminated in a lovely carol composed by Andrew Parnell and set to words by Wendy Cope who was in the audience at the time. This 'Lantern Carol' contained a particularly interesting refrain that ended with unexpected but positively charming harmony.
12th April 2014
'Mozart - Requiem' in Ely Cathedral
"Ely Choral Society filled Ely Cathedral with some powerful music in their concert featuring Mozart’s Requiem last Saturday. Conductor Andrew Parnell, brought this huge choir, expert orchestra and a fine group of soloists together to create a potent effect in their performance. He had no difficulty in drawing out some very effective contrasts and expression from this massive group of performers and was invariably aware of the musical effect in maintaining a vibrant, energizing pace. The Ely Festival orchestra, led by Helen Medlock, and Edmund Aldhouse (organ) gave excellent support for this compelling choir and the soloists, Daisy Brown (soprano), Katie Schofield (mezzo soprano), Oliver Johnston (tenor), and Henry Neill (bass) were first rate.
The concert opened with ‘Vesperae Solennes de Confessore’ by Mozart in which the enthusiasm and personal involvement of the singers in the choir immediately became apparent. The highlight of this work was undoubtedly the ‘Laudate Dominum’ in which the sheer beauty of the composition was enhanced by exquisite tone, timing, cohesion, control and balance.
Mozart’s appealing sense of joy was reflected in the performance of the ‘Requiem’ while at the same time, its moments of reflection, excitement and darkness were coloured magnificently. Andrew’s astute timing brought this familiar work alive and the sizeable audience were soon caught up in the radiant atmosphere this wonderful performance created."
8th December 2013
'Peace on Earth - Carol Concert' in St. Mary's Church, Ely
"Andrew Parnell directed a highly enjoyable and uplifting evening celebrating the Christmas Season in St. Mary’s Church Ely on Sunday. The programme was very well designed and showed the choir at its best.
The first half of the programme interestingly featured mostly local composers including Andrew, Tim Alban-Jones, John Rutter, John Lawson Baker, David Ford, and Dr Arthur Wills, (Honorary President of Ely Choral Society). Their respective compositions were all very pleasing and well performed by the Choir and/or Ely Youth Choir. Rutter’s The Angel Carol’ sung by Ely Youth Choir was especially commendable with a fine baritone addition. Dr Wills’ arrangement of ‘The Coventry Carol’ was one of the most spectacular that demonstrated how well Ely Choral Society can master Wills’ unique compositional style that has no holds barred when it comes to dramatic expression. Throughout the evening Edmund Aldhouse accompanied superbly on the church organ as required.
After the interval Gustav Holst’s ‘’Christmas Day’ set the mood well and a series of carols and readings rounded the concert off beautifully."
Rosemary Westwell, elyonline