Who the hell is Rosemary Westwell?
I love writing. I write about anything and everything. Revelling in the arts, I visit as many local events as I can, enjoying the fruits of the labour of other people. Having taught secondary school music before, when I had to put on musical productions myself, I have an idea of how difficult it can be. I write glowing reports of the events I see – but – read between the lines – not everything is as glowing as it may seem.
I am married and we have 2 daughters. The eldest has a frightening position as 'assistant professor' and the other daughter is training for a second degree (in child care nursing). I am trying to finish a PhD in language acquisition. A right lost of clever clogs we may seem to be, but as a one–time Aussie (now firmly British) I like to think I have kept a down–to–earth approach than can sometimes disarm the unsuspecting. After all, a spade is a spade no matter what else you may call it – or is it? So, if you have time to spare and want to read my regular offering with an eye on what lies behind the glowing words – take a look at my flow of reviews and comments.
My husband John Westwell for whom I have Power of Attorney – even with Power of Attorney I am treated as a criminal by Cambridge County Council. The attack has been relentless since he was sectioned in 1992 and has been under their ‘care’ ever since. The authorities refuse to provide NHS funding for his care home fees. I have been constantly under attack – with demands for care home fees, to complete assessment forms, and to sign an agreement with the threat of having to pay the full care home fees if I did not. I have asked for a copy of their Code of Practice – they do not have one.
Mediaeval Baebes, a stunning group of female vocalists who specialize in Mediaeval music, captured a packed audience in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral with their astounding sounds.
Their pure voices in perfectly gelled harmony and the impact of skilful instrumental support entranced the listeners with music that brought Mediaeval culture alive. With interesting descriptions of the way mediaeval people saw the world, we were taken on a magical journey to those times. Their songs told tales of love, mythical beings, and mystical religious adoration. A body-crushing snake, sweet soothing reflections on the rose and its symbolism, a tantrum throwing queen, and a song of the debilitating effects of alcohol were all par for the course.
Stretham Players certainly know how to entertain. In a packed house, the contrasting characters of Trisha (played by Barbara Gray), Liz (Carole Gentry), Viv (Maureen Hutter) and Mary (Donna Bright) bonded together delightfully in a skilfully written play by Lindsey McAuley. There was no doubt why the play called ‘Brittle Women’ was voted “Best New Play” at the Cambridge Drama Festival 2007.
This one act show was permeated with a constant flow of humour in the guise of witty turns of phrase, humorous situations and a healthy good laugh at the frailty of human nature. This was balanced well with explorations into the darker sides of life and death such as the devastating effects of cancer and bereavement.
Chatterbox Liz with a phenomenal number of lines to learn filled the stage with her warmth and her joy in the trivialities of every day matters. Glam puss Viv described as “mutton dressed up as lamb” had us roaring with laughter at her obsession with the opposite sex and her failed plot to seduce the new vicar.
Read more on Brittle Women Review…
The Band of the Parachute Regiment commemorated the 25th Anniversary of the Falklands conflict with a magnificent concert in Ely Cathedral. Dressed in vibrant red, these skilful musicians filled the Cathedral with glorious sound. They presented a series of spirited and moving pieces with dazzling precision.
Under the directorship of Captain Glen Jones and WO1 (BM) Freeborn, this band demonstrated tremendous agility and versatility. In the opening and closing procession of standard bearers, the “Dambusters March” never lost momentum while in “A Festive Overture” by Reed contrasting moods and textures were fully explored.
The vibrant atmosphere in the Cathedral was further enhanced with challenging contemporary pieces such as music from the “Pirates of the Caribbean”. The compelling percussive beats foretold doom and destruction.
Solos were astutely included in the programme. The first movement of Martin Ellerby’s Clarinet Concerto was phenomenal. The technical gymnastics this piece demanded in its tightly constructed short and detached phrases were rapidly and cleanly executed by the soloist and the band. Other notable solos were the trumpet and alto saxophone solos. The trumpet solo reflected beautifully the name of the piece: “Brilliance” by Barker. Clear articulation and controlled brilliance smoothly evoked its pure Brazilian character. The mellow tones of the alto saxophone solo evocatively presented “Carnival” by Sparkse and a euphonium duet added new warmth to the poignant song: “Softly as I leave you” by Devitas.
Read more on The Band of the Parachute Regiment in Ely…
“My Fair Lady” presented by The King Junior School Ely in the Hayward Theatre was a splendid occasion. The young cast exuded confidence and talent and the characters of this well known musical were brought to life. Eliza Doolittle (Sophie Emms) and Professor Higgins (Oliver Hill) especially were delightfully authentic and dynamic. Sophie’s raucous cries in broad cockney vowels were fantastic. Her outbursts of anger, her strong singing and her interaction with Professor Higgins in the final scenes were outstanding. Oliver’s portrayal of someone way beyond his chronological age was superb. His sense of authority and superiority, his affectations, his stance, his sensitive timing and his excellent singing all contributed to a highly effective and thoroughly enjoyable show.
Colonel Pickering (Leo Banahan) was a cheerful voice of reason for the self-orientated professor and Mrs. Hopkins (Sally Cheng) was a tolerant housekeeper, mindful of Liza’s needs as well as those of her employer. Mrs. Higgins (Lydia Crussell) encumbered with her wayward son spoke with rare distinction and the mature wisdom of an understanding parent.
One of the most endearing characters was undoubtedly Alfred P. Doolittle (Charles Ewing) whose unique philosophy of life, bereft of moral virtue, coloured his accomplished performance as he filled the stage with delightful cockney audacity.
Read more on Kings Junior School Ely Perform ‘My Fair Lady’…
Ely Sinfonia presented a refreshing concert in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 3rd March 2007. An attractive programme of music with Spanish connections offered works by Chabrier, Rodrigo and Dvorak that were both appealing and challenging.
“España-Rhapsody for Orchestra” by Chabrier provided a fitting attention-seeking opening to events. The tantalizing variety of rhythms and colours in this work were brought alive in the hands of conductor Peter Britton. His ease on the platform and the suave precision that permeated his conducting style inspired great works from the orchestral members.
David Massey was a youthful but formidable solo guitarist. His capacity to sail through swift passages with unerring effortlessness and his command of the tremendous variety of styles and techniques his performances demanded, thrilled the packed audience. He positively stirred the hear-strings in Rodrigo’s “Fantasia para un gentilhombre” and his firm exploration of the deeper tones of the instrument was awe-inspiring.
Ely Sinfonia accompanied David with measured skill and this splendid orchestra had by now proved to be highly accomplished – able to work cohesively and effectively incorporating many highly skilled solo passages that gave the virtuosic flourishes and more sonorous, contemplative episodes excellent value.
Read more on Ely Sinfonia in Ely Cathedral…
Full with Wills: My Life in My Music: A Memoir by Arthur Wills OBE
In this book, Dr Arthur Wills tells the tale of his humble beginnings in Coventry as a young boy who knew he would spend his life as a composer/performer and how his world blossomed into an exulted life of fulfilment through his music.
It is impossible not to respond to Arthur Wills when reading this recently launched autobiography. The book is certainly a good read and appears at the outset to accomplish just what the preface states: “to relate the story of [Arthur’s] life with reference to the compositions which demonstrate the complex interweaving of the life and the work …”. However, it accomplishes far more than this. Within this amazing whirlwind of a tale, the engaging personality of this musical giant emerges with sparkling directness. As you become mesmerised with the phenomenal stamina and complexity of this highly gifted composer/performer you are brought to immediate attention with his jovially-disguised statements of belief that attack the very heart of musical complacency.
With a no holds barred’ approach, very little is left untouched as the vicissitudes of a composer and performer’s life in the highest echelons of the musical world feed accounts of his varied of experiences of different venues, instruments and administrators. At the same time, in an almost confrontational way, his acute perception raises political issues ranging from the addition of female voices to cathedral choir ranks and women clergy, the adoption of modern service books, publishing, the workings of the BBC and ITV, the standards of current music examinations and temperamental soloists to the over riding importance of high art.
Read more on Book Review: Full with Wills by Arthur Wills…
The recorder is a much maligned instrument. In the hands of a highly accomplished musician the tremendous versatility and skill required to play this instrument well soon become clear. This was certainly the case with the performance on February 23rd by Kate Hearne in the Recital Hall at the Hayward Theatre in Ely. In her hands, the virtuosic embellishments, dramatic declarations and sustained beauty of the instruments were mesmerising. With unerring ease, Kate switched from alto (treble) recorder, to voice flute (tenor) or soprano (descant) recorders to suit the different tonal requirements of the pieces.
Joseph McHardy accompanied her with a firm harmonic foundation from the harpsichord. His secure articulation, expressive melodic development and rhythmic dynamism complemented the recorders exactly.
Read more on Baroque Music Comes To Ely…
Noel Coward’s “Blithe Spirit” was an excellent choice for the King’s School Ely to display the emerging talent amongst senior students. Under the expert directorship of Adella Charlton, the cast brought to life the golden era of Noel Coward’s sophisticated wit and humour, presenting the foibles of characters beyond the years of their portrayers in a series of credible smoothly developed scenes. The cohesive team work and skilled acting drew the audience into the dramatic events delightfully. There were some wonderful escalating arguments among the couples.
The Ely area has been blessed with a number of pantomimes to ease the gloom of our fading winter days. Stretham’s version of “Cinderella”, written by Tina Barsby and produced by Angela Fordham, positively glowed with the warmth and fun of a community ready for a good laugh. Hilarious quips bounced between actors and members of the audience, outrageous caricatures of well-known figures strutted the stage and tongue-in-cheek we were all given a jolly good night of laughter.
What a wonderful show it was! Witchford Amateur Dramatic Society under the directorship of Gaz Brown has certainly developed into a robust and highly successful company of talented entertainers.
In the recent production of the musical “The Wizard of Oz”, the charming tale is told of Kansas-born Dorothy thrown into an imaginative world of witches, Munchkins, the Wizard of Oz and the like. Acting, music and choreography were of a very high standard making this one of the most enthralling shows this company has produced. The characters lived and breathed their parts, their singing was tunefully effective and the full-bodied band was particularly sensitive to the needs of the singers and dramatic developments. Stage movements were exceptionally effective and slickly manoeuvred.