Sunday, 30 September 2018

The Ely Cathedral Moon

Last night we attended a concert in Ely Cathedral given by Ely Sinfonia to celebrate the centenary of the first performance of the Planets Suite by Gustav Holst. The programme included Holst's second symphony and a new work by Phil Toms called Great War Overture which worked well in the cathedral as there was plenty of room for the brass to resonate back and forth. Looking up from where we were sitting I could see an image of the Moon on the ceiling. However, despite Ely Cathedral dating back to 1083 CE I subsequently found out that the current ceiling paintings go back only to 1858 CE although the artist Henry Le Strange did note that traces of the original artwork still remained. However, these medieval designs were simply painted over so we will never know if they included an image of the Moon or if this was Le Strange's addition. It was interesting to hear the Planets Suite played by a large orchestra and choir. Usually I hear excerpts on the way to work on my car radio which does not really afford the work the opportunity to be heard properly in full. I don't think any CD or recording can quite capture the effect of the unseen off auditorium choir singing with the door opening and closing in Neptune as Holst requested. Neptune is the mystic in Holst's Planet Suite and the almost ghostly sound of the choir certainly enhances this effect.     

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