New musical work by local composer to be performed by 250 children at Ely Cathedral

PUBLISHED: 12:33 30 July 2019 | UPDATED: 12:33 30 July 2019

New musical work to be performed at Ely Cathedral in 2020 by local composer James Olsen. Picture: JAMES OLSEN

New musical work to be performed at Ely Cathedral in 2020 by local composer James Olsen. Picture: JAMES OLSEN

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Ely Cathedral is commissioning leading young British composer James Olsen to write a major new piece to be performed by more than 250 schoolchildren.

New musical work to be performed at Ely Cathedral in 2020 by local composer James Olsen. Picture: JAMES OLSENNew musical work to be performed at Ely Cathedral in 2020 by local composer James Olsen. Picture: JAMES OLSEN

The work, titled Ad orientem: An Ely Liturgy, tells the story of how the original Anglo-Saxon monastery at Ely founded by Saint Etheldreda in 673 was destroyed by the Vikings in 870.

Boy and girl choristers, orchestral musicians from the Britten Sinfonia, cathedral clergy and alter servers will all form part of the performance set to take place at the cathedral on June 22 2020.

It will combine theatre, music and liturgical elements to make use of different parts of the building in performance.

The project aims to give schoolchildren from Ely and the surrounding area the opportunity to sing in the cathedral even if they have had no previous musical experience.

New musical work to be performed at Ely Cathedral in 2020 by local composer James Olsen. Picture: JAMES OLSENNew musical work to be performed at Ely Cathedral in 2020 by local composer James Olsen. Picture: JAMES OLSEN

Participating schools include Ely College, Ely St Mary's CofE Junior, Rackham CofE Primary, Hilgay Riverside Academy and Ten Mile Bank Riverside Academy. As part of the project, James and musicians from the cathedral and the Britten Sinfonia will deliver a number of workshops in participating schools, introducing the children to local Anglo-Saxon history and medieval music.

The work will also contain a series of short meditations by a larval eel as it makes its 4,000 mile journey eastwards from the Sargasso Sea near North America to Ely, written especially for the work and read in the performance by the local writer Francis Spufford.

Composer James Olsen, who moved to Ely three years ago, said: 'It's an honour and a thrill to be asked to write this new piece for Ely Cathedral.

"Many of us love the hymns and church music we sang as youngsters, and the Anglican choral tradition is in many ways the bedrock of British musical life. "But our beautiful cathedrals can seem a bit scary if you've never been inside one, which is why this project is so important to me."

He added: "By giving more than 250 Cambridgeshire schoolchildren the chance to sing in this magnificent space, this project will help to pass this precious musical tradition on to the next generation.

"I have huge admiration for all that the cathedral does, and am delighted that we are collaborating on this project which I hope will be of benefit to our community."

The project has been largely funded through a donation from the Farmington Institute.

The cathedral is also offering individuals and local businesses the opportunity to become patrons of the project and from £10 people will see their name printed in the published score as well as receiving other benefits.

The Very Revd Mark Bonney, Dean of Ely, said: "The cathedral's musical tradition is one of its great treasures, and by giving hundreds of local schoolchildren the opportunity to sing alongside cathedral musicians and members of the Britten Sinfonia in this magnificent space, a new generation will discover the richness and beauty of that tradition for the first time."

For more information, please visit www.olsenverlag.com/ely

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