Home   News   Article

A spiritual experience in Ely Cathedral

By Spalding Today Columnist

Trish's dad's painting of Ely Cathedral (2570775)
Trish's dad's painting of Ely Cathedral (2570775)

We parked the car and walked up Fore Hill. I was looking for Number 13 on the right hand side. It used to belong to my great uncle, Jim Evans, who owned a men's outfitters there for many years.

My dad was born in Ely, living in Cambridge Road as a child, and when I was a little girl we would travel down from Newcastle to see relatives in Ely and Peterborough. I clearly remember our visit to see Uncle Jim and Auntie Doris in their flat above the shop.

Last week's visit to the town was for a classical concert in Ely Cathedral. After our trip to Suffolk last year and the concert by choirmaster Gareth Malone in Snape Maltings, we picked up a brochure for the famous Aldeburgh Festival. We couldn't fit in another jaunt to Suffolk, but a special concert in Ely was being held and that was much more accessible.

The last time the Aldeburgh Festival had come to Ely was in 1964, the year I was born. So this really was a chance in a lifetime to see its return. The programme was intriguing and, for a couple who only like a bit of Classic FM whilst driving, slightly scary.

Orazio Benevolo's Mass was interspersed with other little-known Italian works by composers such as Palestrina and Frescobaldi.

This Italian Baroque concert was performed by Le Concert Spirituel, a French ensemble conducted by its founder, Hervé Niquet. Niquet positioned his choir and musicians in eight small groups, matching the sides of the famous octagon tower.

Some members of the audience sat in the centre, with all the musicians and singers surrounding them. We sat in the north east transept and had an excellent view of all eight mini-choirs with the mesmerising conductor facing us.

It was an extraordinary and quite beautiful concert. The haunting voices soared into the cathedral's vast space, accompanied by the exquisite music which was played on period instruments of the time, such as the dulcian (an early type of bassoon) and the sackbut (a renaissance trombone).

The Mass lasted just over an hour and every minute of it was uplifting. I was so pleased we had decided to go. This unique French repertory company perform all over the world in international concert halls but it was fitting that their sacred music should be very much at home in this ancient cathedral, which towers over the fenland vista.

We did find number 13 Fore Hill. It's now a hairdresser's but it looked in fine form and we could still see the chequered windows of the upstairs flat.

Back in Holbeach, I hunted through my dad's paintings that he completed in the years before he died. There was a watercolour of Ely Cathedral, which used to hang in my aunt's home in Hertfordshire. It's on our wall now, back home in the Fens.


Damien Hirst is spotted in Norfolk


Iliffe Media does not moderate comments. Please click here for our house rules.

People who post abusive comments about other users or those featured in articles will be banned.

Thank you. Your comment has been received and will appear on the site shortly.


Terms of Comments

We do not actively moderate, monitor or edit contributions to the reader comments but we may intervene and take such action as we think necessary, please click here for our house rules.

If you have any concerns over the contents on our site, please either register those concerns using the report abuse button, contact us here.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More