Wednesday, July 23, 2014

From the Vaughan Magazine - Concert Review of The Year

The following text will appear in the Vaughan Magazine in September. Here is an early preview!

There have been performance opportunities of great variety throughout this School year, involving very many of the School’s pupils. Novelties included a wonderful Strings Day in January, when five members of the English Chamber Orchestra worked with our string players of all levels, building to a delightful concert. Other visitors included David Hill, Director of the BBC Singers and Wayne Escoffery, a member of the Mingus Big Band.  Southbank Sinfonia added to their work with us this year with a wonderful composing workshop for the Lower Sixth music students. Boys also had the chance to work with violinist Nicola Benedetti in a series of workshops and master classes whilst Patrick Huynh in the Lower Sixth was a finalist in the Young Drummer of the Year competition. Alessio D’Andrea even got to sing a solo for Placido Domingo at the Royal Opera House!

Smaller scale events have included our Early Evening Recitals held in the Michaelmas Term and also the annual Music Competition, which was once again held in the Lent Term. 114 pupils took part in this year's competition. The winners of the various heats were as follows:
Oliver Hewins, Owen Saldanha, Dominic Doutney& Thomas Lacy
Alessio D’Andrea, Filippo Turkheimer, Eoghan McNelis & Thomas Galea
Francis de Souza, Hugo Greally, Liam Clarke & Alfie Smart
Owen Saldanha, David Laleye-Thomas, Aeron Dela-Cruz, Thomas Galea
Timothy McGarry, Emil Sieciechowicz, Thomas Fetherstonhaugh & William Lim Kee Chang
The Final, held in March, was a very lovely evening of music-making. The winners were:
Lower School Musician of the Year                       Owen Saldanha
Upper School Musician of the Year                       Dominic Doutney
Dominic, who is to attend the Royal College of Music in September, was invited to keep the Senior trophy as he has won it so many times! The competition will be a little more open perhaps next year!

In June we held the Lower School Chamber Music Competition. The winners, chosen by Howard Ionascu of the Royal Academy of Music, were Second Big Band. The Outstanding Individual Prize of the evening went to Sean Hill of the Fourth Form.

Our larger concerts began with the St Cecilia Concert in November at St Paul’s Church, Hammersmith. Around two hundred pupils performed a wide-ranging programme including music by Haydn, Copland, Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Chilcott in performances by Concert Band, Senior Strings, First and Second Orchestra, the School Choir, Schola and the Sixth Form Choir.

December saw the Vaughan's annual concert with the Belgravia Chamber Orchestra, which this year was of music by Haydn and Mozart. The concert was once again held in the wonderful surroundings of St James's, Spanish Place. Haydn's 'Nelson' Mass was the main work on the programme, in which the choir was joined by four Old Vaughanian soloists, Maud Millar, Daniel Laking, Peter Davoren and Jerome Knox, all of whom sang quite beautifully. The Mozart in the concert was the Violin Concerto in G major performed with great confidence and musicianship by Thomas Fetherstonhaugh of the Fifth Form.

Our work with our Orchestra in residence Southbank Sinfonia was particularly exciting this year, partly because of the wonderful repertoire we were exploring – Rimksy-Korsakov’s Scheherazade was the main orchestral work – and also because of the concert venue, the remarkable Jerwood Hall, at LSO St Luke’s in the Barbican. The Jerwood Hall is the home of the London Symphony Orchestra and it provided a spectacular backdrop for our concert which was surely the best of the six that we have now given sat side-by-side with Southbank Sinfonia.  The Schola sang Duruflé’s beautiful Requiem in the rarely performed full orchestral version in the first half before our two orchestras joined forces for the Russian showpiece that is Scheherazade. The pictures in this magazine give some idea of the wonderful Sunday afternoon that we spent at the Jerwood Hall, without question one of the highlights of this musical year. As always, very considerable thanks are owed to the management and players of Southbank Sinfonia who continue to support this project so very warmly.

There was another new and impressive venue for the Spring Instrumental Concert, which this year was held in the beautiful Wathen Hall at St Paul’s School.  The Vaughan has links with St Paul’s and we have been fortunate to perform in their hall in previous years with Southbank Sinfonia. This was our first proper ‘school’ concert there though, with lots of ensembles taking part. The large audience was grateful both for the excellent acoustic of the hall and also the raked seating that allowed everyone a clear view of the music-making. There was lots of strong playing, the highlight of which, for me at least, was the complete performance of Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings. I have for many years urged Mr Manoras to tackle this work, one of my very favourites in the string repertoire, but he has always felt it to be too difficult. The strength of our string players at the moment though is such that he was willing to undertake the challenge – and he was rewarded with a truly remarkable performance. To perform this work in its entirety is a huge achievement, a testament to the dedicated work of Mr Manoras over many years. Other performers that evening included Thomas Galea who gave a strong performance of Mozart’s G Major Flute Concerto and Thomas Fetherstonhaugh who conducted the First Orchestra through a very creditable performance of Sibelius’s Finlandia. The younger boys played very well indeed in both Junior Strings and the Second Orchestra and there were sterling performances from Concert Band, Big Band and even a lovely guitar ensemble.

The Easter concert this year was held at St John’s, Smith Square. The second half of the concert saw the Schola perform Lenten motets by Poulenc, Casals and Lotti, and the School Choir perform Poulenc’s splendid setting of the Gloria. Old Vaughanian Maud Millar joined us as soloist for the Gloria. The concert will be most remembered though I am sure for the performance in the first half of Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto with Dominic Doutney in the Upper Sixth as soloist. Accompanied by the School’s Orchestra, this was a performance of real virtuosity and complete control. Dominic is, as they say, ‘the real deal’! His playing is quite simply remarkable – he is far and away the most advanced instrumentalist that the School has known in my 19 years of leading the music. I was very pleased that in his last term, before he heads off to the Royal College of Music and no doubt a very fine career as a concert pianist, that the Vaughan was able to offer him one final platform for his talents. In a year that has seen the Vaughan’s music-making more than ever catering for pupils of all abilities this was an example of us catering for the needs of the greatly gifted.  The standing ovation that greeted the close of Dominic’s performance left no doubt that the audience were greatly moved. It was an occasion that will certainly live long in my memory and I hope provided an inspiration to the many pupils who were present. We may not all be able to achieve the levels that Dominic has, but with commitment and hard work we can fulfil our own potential, whatever that might be. 


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