Review of ‘The Gentlemen of St John’s College, Cambridge: From Byrd to the Beatles’ on 23rd June 2012 in the Hayward Theatre, The King’s School Ely as part of King’s Ely Nineteenth Concert Society Season.

July 7, 2012

‘The Gentlemen of St John’s College, Cambridge’ drew a large enthusiastic audience to their concert, ‘From Byrd to the Beatles’,  on 23rd June 2012 in the Hayward Theatre Ely. It was part of The King’s School Ely Concert Society Series which always promises talented performers and, as expected, these ten gentlemen gave one of the best concerts we have heard.

The singers featured were Ollie Hunt, Guy James, James Imam, Huw Leslie, Joseph Ataman, Gus Perkins-Ray, Geoff Clapham, Kieran Brunt, Guy Edward-Jones and Director Peter Morton.

Pure, exquisite tones, choral balance and rhythmic ingenuity were the order of the evening. These singers were undoubtedly highly talented experts in the field of unaccompanied ensemble singing.

The programme was well designed and the opening pieces exemplified the sustained beauty of early vocal music. ‘Lamentations of Jeremiah, Part 1’ by  the sixteenth century Thomas Tallis opened the concert with a pure blend of voices and interwoven parts enhancing  the refined serenity of his style. ‘Lugebat David Absalom’ by Nicolas Gombert introduced an underlying sense of momentum and corporate tension associated with particularly successful musical ensembles. Willam Byrd’s ‘Gloria (from Mass for 3 Voices) followed and in this the expressiveness of the varied sections was particularly well delivered by these sensitive performers, matching the words particularly well. ‘Crux Fidelis’ by King John 1V of Portugal contrasted the Byrd with its measured, slow and reverend sound. The more modern sounds of ‘Holy is the True Light’ by the twentieth century William H. Harris were supported with amazing breath control and technique and  ‘Look Down O Lord’ by Jonathan Seers brought forth moments of excitement with delicious use of discord and expressive variety.

Then some of the ensemble walked off the stage to form and ‘antiphonal’ group for ‘Ave Maria’ by Franz Biebl.  It was surprising how this twentieth century composer with all his use of modern techniques created the same reverence and beauty as the familiar Ave Marias from previous centuries. This time the antiphonal answers were not mere copies of the opening phrases, but were integrated meaningfully so that the combined effect was one of warmth, beauty and affection. This was a most impressive and fitting piece to end the first half of the concert.

When the Gentlemen resumed their place on the stage for the second half of the programme, it was clear that they were now going to relax and enjoy more modern music of the people ranging from folk song to teenage ‘Dirtbag’. The charming arrangement of ‘Bushes and Briars’ by Vaughan William flowed magnificently in his inimitable folk-like style. ‘She’s like the Swallow’ arranged by Chilcott followed with its delightful solos and attractive style of arrangement so typical of Chilcott. ‘The Oak and the Ash’ arranged by Gordon Langford and its traditional chordal form contrasted delightfully with the following ‘Miss Otis Regrets’ by Cole Porter. In this song, the humour of the ensemble began to blossom, and the intuitive rhythmical genius of these performers came to the fore in the songs that followed:  ‘With a little help from my friends’, ‘Moon Dance, ‘Ain’t no sunshine’ (with a gorgeous solo), ‘Teenage Dirtbag’, ‘Tears in Heaven’ and ‘I wan’na be like you’. With amazing vocal accompaniments arranged by these talented musicians they showed a strong sense of characterization and musical know-how that made these songs come alive. The encore was justly deserved and sent the audience home with the mesmerizing rhythmic joy of Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t’ (My Baby) recurring in their thoughts.

This was indeed a wonderful evening. The next concert presented by the King’s School Ely Concert Series will be on the 21st of September. For further information contact Lisa Bushell (01353) 653931 email: lisabushell@kingsely.org

Review of the Concerto Concert by the King’s School Ely in the Hayward Theatre on Friday 29th June 2012

July 7, 2012

Ian Sutcliffe is undoubtedly one of the best Directors of Music the King’s School Ely has  enjoyed and his ‘swan song’, a concert featuring the musical ‘stars’ of the school was a most fitting occasion to ‘round off the school year’.

As expected, the standard of these young performers was phenomenal. As young soloists, having the opportunity to share their talent and to perform with an orchestra no doubted added an extra dimension to their experience before some of them leave the world of school and head out into the world to make their mark.

The concert opened with Christiane Lewis playing the lively Allegro maestoso from Mozart’s Flute Concerto in G major.  The clear, pure tone she produced on her flute made the piece sparkle. Kate Collins followed playing ‘Meditation from ‘Thais’ by Massenet on the violin. This young lady shone with phenomenal musicality and the exquisite sounds she coaxed from her instrument were awe-inspiring. She certainly brought this popular piece alive. C.J. Porter-Thaw is one of the school’s most renowned musicians and his performance of Trumpet Concerto Andante and Allegro by Haydn earned him his place as one of King’s School Ely’s finest.

A delightful interlude was provided by some of the Sixth Form Leavers and Scholars: Fern Ashby, Sally Cheng, Maxine Eddleston, Brad Fulford, Ben German, Oliver Hill, Harriette Pink and Henry Sandercock. Conducted by Miss Vanessa Scott, they entertained us delightfully with a fitting excerpt from Mozart’s ‘Cosi fan tutte’. The maturity of their voices and their intuitive musicianship brought balance and meaning to their performance.

Contrast was provided by a smooth, luxurious performance by Ben German on his alto saxophone playing ‘Blues Concerto’ Pastoral by Holcombe. He was ably accompanied by the brass quintet: C.J. Porter-Thaw (trumpet), Elric Doswell (trumpet), Jadz Tooth (trombone), Max Haires-Messenger (French horn), Chris Aniskowvizc (tuba)

A young music student was once asked why they wanted to learn the clarinet. The student replied that it was simply because they liked the sound of the instrument. Luke Cave gave a splendid example of how beautiful and mesmerizing this instrument can be when he performed ‘Five Bagatelles’ Prelude, Romance and Fughetta by Finzi on his clarinet. The Romance was particularly captivating while the Fughetta demonstrated an amazing technique.

These talented performances were enhanced by the high standard of the orchestra led by Helen Medlock and conducted by Ian Sutcliffe.

This was a most delightful musical occasion on such a warm summer’s evening — one that will no doubt be remembered by all participants in time to come.

 

Review Ely Consort’s ‘Music for a Royal Celebration’ 3oth June 2012 The Parish Church, Chatteris

July 7, 2012

Ely Consort and Director Matthew Rudd certainly know how to put on a splendid concert and ‘Music for a Royal Celebration’ was no exception. In conjunction with an excellent chamber orchestra, the Con Brio orchestra, and some fine soloists, Catriona Clark (soprano), Ashley Harris (alto), Sam Dressel (tenor) and Dominick Sedgwick (bass), these fine musicians brought well-known celebratory works to life. 

The perhaps less well known mass:  ‘Theresienmesse’  by Haydn opened the evening and it’s positive almost cheerful qualities made it a very fitting opening for such an upbeat event. There were many moments of special warmth and bright and lively tapestries of sound well contrasted well with some more serious notes of darkness or affirmative conviction. The soloists were particularly charismatic and well matched.

One item that was a must for an event like this was ‘I was Glad’ by Parry. We have heard this piece a number of times already this season, and this performance was one of the best. The power these performers emanated filled Chatteris Parish Church magnificently.

Light relief was offered by a charming performance of Handel’s ‘Air from The Water Music Suite’ by the Con Brio string players. Then the choir and full orchestra gave a full-blooded performance of ‘Zadok the Priest’ by Handel – the opening particularly potent and strong. 

Another ‘must-have’ for this type of concert was Handel’s ‘The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba’ and the Con Brio orchestra did it proud. More very appropriate choral works followed: ‘Coronation Gloria’ by Sir Charles Stanford. ‘Blest Pair of Sirens’ by Parry and the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ by Handel.

Catriona Clark was particularly impressive in the ‘Coronation Gloria’ while in ‘Blest Pair of Sirens’ there were particularly impressive moments of precision and times when this choir obviously revelled in the its glorious sounds.

A musical performance of the ‘Hallelujah’ Chorus was indeed an excellent way to end this most enjoyable evening and was a fitting example to demonstrate that this choir is no ‘ordinary’ choir – it is by far one of the best in the area. I look forward to their performance in Ely Cathedral Lady Chapel on Saturday 1st December.

The concert was presented by Chatteris Music Society and their next concert will feature an outstanding 11-year old pianist, George Harliono, who will play works by Beethoven, Rachmaninov, Chopin and Debussy on Saturday 1st September at 3 pm in Chatteris Parish Church. Contact: 01354 669104/692009

Other contact: http://www.elyconsort.org.uk; info@elyconsort.org.uk

HSBC ‘won’

July 8, 2010

I have chosen HSBC as my new bank – They only charge £9 to send money to Spain. (Barlcays charge £20). I managed to make an appointment to set up a new account fairly easily and they do not charge for the account.

Banks in Ely survey

June 17, 2010

Bank Survey

It is always difficult to believe everything you are told by the banks or by comparison sites. There is no guarantee that everything is up-to-date or that the bank is forgetting to emphasize what is in the ‘small print’.

So, I am proposing to send the letter at the end of this blog, by email or post,  to a number of banks in the Ely area.  The type of response and their terms will be interesting to compare.

Background:

I have an account with a large bank in Ely. A certain sum is taken regularly from my account and paid to a bank abroad to cover the costs of a flat. I recently went to the branch here in Ely and asked to amend the amount paid. I was told I would have to phone Head Office. I detest using phones – there is nothing in writing and more often than not, you are kept waiting for ages and you cannot guarantee that the call centre person can speak or understand English or know enough to deal with your request. You usually have to wait for a number of automated lectures that I could do without, frankly.

So I asked for a piece a paper and with account details etc, sent the request by letter.

Some days later I received a reply that said something to the effect that my request (no details – it could have been anyone’s ‘request’) could not be acted on because they couldn’t find it and that I should go to the branch.  

I don’t know about you, but I reckoned this was pretty poor service so, as I am want to do when I am put out, I drew my reactions all over the letter – e.g. poor service, that I’d been to the branch already etc. . I wrote the word COMPLAINT in big letters on the envelope and sent the letter back to Head Office.  They replied that they are looking into it – i.e. situation is not resolved.

Letter:

Dear Sir or Madam,

I would be grateful if you would send me an early reply to my questions:

  1. Do you have any special deals for opening new accounts at present?
  2. What restrictions would there be on this/these accounts?
  3. Could I make an arrangement with you to send quarterly payments from one of my accounts with you to my bank in Spain?
  4. If so, how and what charges would you make?
  5. What special deals do you have regarding savings at present?

Please answer my questions directly. Do not simply enclose current leaflets.

Yours faithfully,

worried about WordPress and what they do

April 12, 2010

I am hoping an administrator of WordPress reads this and answers my query. I find that a review of mine that I thought was reasonable and with no hidden agendas has been copied and added to ‘rejected news’. newssucks and another website. I am offended with being associated with these website…

who has published by review further –

 how can I stop them from adding my reviews to their website?

I write this so that I can continue with wordpress – I am tempted to change my blog address…

I’ll add my an email address here in the hope that I am contacted by wordpres administration.

rjwestwell@hotmail.com rjwestwell@hotmail.com

A Personal mobile phone survey

April 6, 2010

My own mobile phone survey 6th April 2010

We seem to waste so much time – searching – searching the internet for the answer to a simple question. These days we are taken along paths we never intend to take – to suit the companies – it is time for this ‘worm’ of a customer to turn. I have just visited a site that professes to list the mobile phone deals available. The two strands I followed were either ‘no deals available’ (after all) or ‘not in stock’. Surely it would be a simple matter to list such problems at the beginning of the search and not at the end.  

I am looking for a phone company that is interested in helping me, the customer, buy a phone that I can use as a pay as you go scheme, that offers me a good deal and good customer care service afterwards.

Dialaphone.co.uk advertised a Nokia1661 virgin for £4.95 calls costing 20p per minute but no local shops addresses

best-mobile-contracts.co.uk advertised a Nokia for £00.00 after a click or two it cost over £100

moneysupermarket.com advertised a Alcatel Lobster 6211 for £9.95 Virgin with no details of the cost of calls or local shops addresses

directphoneshop.co.uk advertised a Nokia 1208 for £4.95 TMobile with no details of the cost of calls or local shops addresses

I decided to look up local shops – real places with real people that you can return to if there is a problem with the phone.

I googled ‘mobile phone shops’ and was presented with the internet shops.

I googled ‘mobile phones Harrogate’ and was directed to an internet shop in Newcastle.

http://www.accessplace.com gave me these addresses:

Carphone Warehouse, 302 Skipton Road, Harrogate,North Yorkshire HG1 3HE
Telephone: 0870 168 2621 Fax: 01423 705561

Mobile Telecom, 127 Cold Bath Road, Harrogate, North Yorkshire HG2 0NU
Telephone: 01423 502555 Fax: 01423 875075

Orange retail shops, 2 Cambridge Street, Harrogate, North Yorkshire HG1 1RU
Telephone: 01423 529039 Fax: 01423 522108

T-Mobile Retail UK, 6 Cambridge Street, Harrogate North Yorkshire HG1 1RX
Telephone: 01423 817267

The Carphone warehouse, 34 Oxford Street, Harrogate, North Yorkshire HG1 1PP
Telephone: 0870 168 2402 Fax: 01423 567546

The Link, 32 Cambridge Street, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG1 1RX
Telephone: 01423 568415 Fax: 01423 526054

I would like to say I will visit all of them but as I am new to the town it will be the first three or so that I stumble across as I wander around this lovely town, mostly lost because of a poor sense of direction.

When I am Prime Minister 1….

April 6, 2010

Are we the better for having advanced technology?  Episode 1 (I expect there will be more)

In the olden days we could phone who we wanted direct. We could call the operator and arrange to find out what our landline call cost after borrowing someone else’s landline phone.

Alas no more.

Consider this scenario I experienced with a certain phone company. (If I get cross enough I’ll tell you who they are.)

I used my mobile phone to contact the answer messages on my land line at home while I am away on a course. I found three messages – all urgent. I phoned the first people who are in my flat in Spain and have no hot water – the water heater suddenly went on the blink.  We were in the middle of arranging for someone in Spain to replace the tank and I was discussing how I could pay them. Mid conversation my mobile went dead – no warning. I eventually found out I had run out of credit. Silly me, I would have expected some kind of interrupting bleep to warn me well in time for me to top up again.

So I phoned the number for topping up using a card I had already registered. After feeding in a load of numbers, the automated voice said someone would speak to me. No one spoke to me – I was put into the loop again where I fed all my personal details in – no message telling me what was wrong  – just a message at the end saying to ‘try again later’ – No help!

After about half an hour of going round and round in the loop, I try the internet. I feed in my name and details and everything else they wanted to know to find, yet again, that I could not top up – no reason given (Why not. I ask?)

I try phoning the number they had on their internet site – I was told I did not have enough money on my phone to be able to access the number. Considering that this was supposed to be a customer care line – I would expect the first part of the call to be free in view of emergencies that arise such as mine.

I contact the firm by email. There is no immediate reply in my email box. One eventually arrives saying they will contact me in about 48 hours. No good for an emergency eh?

I eventually go in the internet again and try to find a shop for that brand of phone. I find it. By now, even though I had started at about 5 p.m. it is now 5.40 p.m.  I dash to the shop and arrive at 602 p.m.  The shop closed at 6 p.m. I explained my predicament through the window but the manager said he was closed – try Argos he said. I went to Argos – it has closed half an hour previously. (Gee thanks, I mutter).

I spot the landlord when I return to my lodgings. He is as helpful as he can be – rings 100 to try to get a call set up so that we can find out how much my calls cost – he is sent to the internet which fails him….

Tomorrow, I will purchase a new phone from a different company.

When I am Prime Minister I will insist every firm (and every council, by the way) abides by a code of practice which includes telling no lies – i.e. if they promise someone will speak to you on the phone this actually happens, if they are offering customer care they should not use a rip-off number and charge for this ‘care’.

Now that is off my chest, I feel a lot better. I might even face book or twitter about it too!

review ABBA Forever

August 7, 2009

Review of ABBA Forever at the Pier Theatre, Bournemouth

ABBA is a household name immediately bringing to mind this Swedish group‘s captivating and rhythmical close harmony – their unique trademark.

At the Pier Theatre in Bournemouth on Sunday 2nd August , ABBA Forever mesmerized the audience with these same sounds. This time the music was infused with an exhilarating vibrant energy that made the event positively unforgettable.

While the listeners were wowed with pianistic flourishes, Björn manipulated his evocative guitar into spellbinding improvisations. The drums and bass guitar throbbed as the girls danced and sang like never before. Lights, costumes and sets changed seamlessly a continuous flow of ABBA’s famous songs filled the auditorium. Among the favourites were Waterloo, Mama Mia, Fernando, I have a Dream, The Winner Takes All, The Name of the Game, Lay all your love on me, Knowing me Knowing you, Super Trouper, Thank you for the Music, Dancing Queen, Money, Money, Money, Gimme, Gimme, Gimme, Summer Night City, Ring Ring and Take a Chance on Me.

This marvellous group may be seen and heard again at the Pier Theatre Bournemouth on Sunday 23rd August 2009. You are advised to book early for this amazing event!

Can a whole PhD on language acquisition fit into a blog?

July 28, 2009

Just out of curiosity, I thought you might like to see my PhD on “The Development of Language Acquisition of a Mature Learner”. New to the activity of ‘blogging’ I am not sure 70,000 odd words will fit – but I’ll see if I can paste some of it below: No worries – maybe it would be better if you viewed it online – it is now on the IOE site: www.eprints.ioe/48/