Bach to the Bard - review of an evening with Cambridge Voices at Ely Cathedral

Ian de Massini at Cambridge Voices; Bach to the Bard in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral

Ian de Massini at Cambridge Voices; Bach to the Bard in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral - Credit: Archant

Cambridge Voices sang Bach to the Bard in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral.

Cambridge Voices; Bach to the Bard in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral

Cambridge Voices; Bach to the Bard in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral - Credit: Archant

Ian de Massini, Cambridge Voices and The Orchestra of the Age of Reason are rare musicians of undoubted talent and exceptional perception. Ian’s infectious enthusiasm and musical knowledge and know-how kept us enthralled with an amazing evening that was packed with exquisite gems.

Under the title Bach to the Bard we were treated to much Bach (Ian de Massini-style) and a kaleidoscope of anniversary items, except for a touch of Puccini near the end.

When I read in the beginning of the programme that first half comprises music (almost) exclusively Bach I knew we were in for an intriguing almost theatrical evening of music of the highest quality and complexity infused with the very likeable personality of Ian.

Not satisfied with arranging most of the music, conducting and singing, he also played the harpsichord or organ as required.


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His musical genius was very much in evidence.

The voices of the choir were strong, pure and balanced exactly in close harmony, the instrumentalists in The Orchestra of the Age of Reason performed with virtuosic skill and sensitivity and the choreography as the choir moved about the Lady Chapel was stunning.

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Heightened magical moments for me in the first half of the programme were the vivacious opening movement from Bach’s Cantata no 94, the vibrant flutes in Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto no 4, the intense fugue at the end of the 3rd movement of ‘Singet dem Herrn’, ‘Jesu, joy of man’s desiring’ and the last movement from Cantata no 182.

After the interval I was especially impressed with the sheer joy of the spirituals, the most tasteful and appropriate arrangement of the Satie pieces, the charming Elizabethan Serenade, the beautifully gelled harmonies of Vaughan Williams’ ‘Full fathom five’ and the talent of Ian’s pupil Kilian Meissner playing solo viola in ‘The Voice of St. Columba’

This was a wonderful evening and I certainly look forward to Cambridge Voices coming next year to perform Duruflé’s ‘Requiem.’

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