Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Music Department Review of the Year 2015-16

This article will appear in the Vaughan School Magazine at the start of this term. Here for our loyal followers is a chance to read it early!

Music at the Vaughan, 2015-16

This has been a very strong year for the Vaughan’s Music Department, one characterized by the very positive leadership offered by an unusually talented and committed set of Sixth Form musicians and by excellent attendance at rehearsals and events. These factors have allowed us to operate at a high level and the music-making has been of a very good standard on numerous occasions. Meanwhile, in the classroom we continue to innovate and develop new approaches, all with the ambition of involving as many pupils as possible in the joys of learning about music. I was very pleased when the Headmaster appointed Mr Jackson Head of Academic Music earlier in the year and I know that he will make a great deal of this position – indeed he has already been working very hard to introduce some exciting fresh ideas for September’s lessons. We were particularly pleased when a record number of boys opted to study Music GCSE this year – against a backdrop of a decline nationally in the uptake of music and all the arts this was greatly reassuring. This Blog has a number of videos and other resources that show the power and importance of studying music and other creative subjects – not least the reduction in anxiety they provide during the rather stressful GCSE years.

Another joy this year has been the presence in the department of Philippe Barbaroussis, a member of last year’s Upper Sixth, as an assistant administrator. He has been a wonderful colleague and worked incredibly hard during his time with us. I thank him for everything that he has done with us; we shall all miss him greatly next year! This year the instrumental music staff at the Vaughan has remained unchanged other than the addition of two very exciting new singing teachers – Ali Hill and Old Vaughanian Peter Davoren – plus a new piano teacher, Hannah Quinn. Each and every one of our more than forty members of the music staff works very hard contributing their own unique skills and experiences to the musical life of the School and I gratefully acknowledge their wonderful work.

I would also like to thank the pupils who have contributed so much over the past twelve months. This year’s Upper Sixth has particularly loyal and hard working, setting an excellent example to the younger boys.  In particular I thank the following for their remarkable contribution to the musical life of the School: Jonathan Abruhno, Casimir Bowyer, Liam Clarke, James Townsend, Alex Yeghiazarian, Gretta Thompson, Steven Ndoca, Ostin D’Silva, Lara Goodhand, Thomas Fetherstonhaugh, Sophie Kemball, Patrick MacMahon, and Daniel Turner. The musical achievements of this group are very considerable  - they have about 18 Grade 8 Exams between them! Thomas Fetherstonhaugh’s winning of the Organ Scholarship at Merton College, Oxford was a particularly notable achievement and just reward for a student who has been made an especially outstanding contribution to the work that we do.  I wish all this year’s leavers the very best for the future.

Finally I would like to thank the parents of the School for all the invaluable support during the year that has just drawn to a close. Time and time again the Vaughan parents have proved that their support for the School’s music-making is total, through attending our many events in such numbers, through ferrying the pupils to and fro, through supporting the teachers, unfailingly replying positively to requests from the Department and in so many other ways. We are very lucky indeed to have such kind and generous parents at the School. Thank you for all that you do to support our work.

There are a number of exciting ventures planned for next year. Boys will once again appear in operas with the Royal Opera and English National Opera. We are to perform Brahms’s Fourth Symphony, Vaughan Williams’ Sea Symphony, and Handel’s Messiah among many other works.  I hope that you will be able to join us at these and other occasions next year – you can follow the Music Department on Twitter (@cvmsmusic) if you would like to be kept up to date.

Concerts 2015-16

As always and there have been numerous musical events on all different kinds of scale. In the Michaelmas Term we held our annual series of Early Evening Recitals for the pianists, string players, woodwind, brass and organists of the School. These evenings saw some very fine performances. The Lent Term saw the annual Music Competition. Each Heat was adjudicated by an accomplished musician who offered the pupils advice on how best to improve and also chose the winners. More than 100 pupils took part in this year's competition. At the Grand Final, held in March, we witnessed a very high standard of performance throughout. The adjudicator, David Corkhill appointed the winners as follows:

Lower School Musician of the Year                Gabriele Montone
Upper School Musician of the Year                Thomas Fetherstonhaugh

The Lower School Chamber Music Competition, adjudicated by Simon Toyne, saw an excellent number of participants and groups and a very high standard of performing. The winners were ‘Fourth Form Jazz’ and the outstanding individual prize of the evening deservedly went to Oliver Hewins. The competitions and recitals are among the many aspects of the Music Department arranged by Miss Wilby, the Assistant Director of Music and as always I thank her for her efforts in bringing together this important aspect of what we do.

Another notable achievement by Miss Wilby was the Concert Band’s winning through to the Finals of the National Concert Band Festival in Manchester in April. We have hosted the London Heat of the NCBF for the past couple of years and so it was excellent that the boys and girls of the Concert Band had the chance to compete in the finals against some of the best wind bands in the country. They were awarded Silver, a considerable achievement for our first time there and something that we can build on for the future. I was very pleased to see and hear the concert band working with such focus and ambition as the trip to Manchester approached and they certainly played very well indeed in some challenging repertoire.

The Big Band has been going through a period of rebuilding this year with a new rhythm section being put in place but we have been busy nonetheless, performing at the Bull’s Head in Barnes and also at a new venue, the Half Moon in Putney. The Big Band Evening in Feburary was a great success and had strong performances from both the Big Band and Junior Big Band, and also the Addison Sextet, a small jazz group run by Mr R Harris. There are exciting plans for the Band for next year including a possible concert with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra.

The St Cecilia Concert in November saw around 150 members of the School performing in a varied programme of music, greatly enjoyed by a large and appreciative audience. Works performed included Bach’s Wachet Auf!, Schubert’s Symphony No 8, the finale of Saint-Saëns’ Organ Symphony and extracts from Carmina Burana. For Carmina Burana we were joined by thirty young singers from Corpus Christi Primary School in Brixton. Two of the performances were conducted by members of the Sixth Form, Filippo Turkheimer and Thomas Fetherstonhaugh.  Thomas was also the violin soloist, alongside Jonathan Abrunho on the oboe in a very fine performance of Bach’s Concerto for Violin and Oboe in D minor.

The Sixth Form Choir has been larger than for many years this year and Mr Jackson put together an exciting and challenging programme of events for them, the highlight of which was a visit to Selwyn College, Cambridge to sing Evensong. The choir also sang at a Carol Service for the Mayor of Kensington and Chelsea and a service at St Gabriel’s Church, Pimlico.

The Spring Instrumental Concert was held in the Wathen Hall at St Paul’s School on Wednesday 2 March. With around 120 pupils involved, this was an evening of strong performances from Junior and Senior Ensembles alike, the main work being Dvořák’s
beautiful Eighth Symphony. Other highlights included a concerto for two bassoons (performed by Senior Strings with Luciano Cusack and Lara Goodhand on the bassoons) and also Concert Band’s performance of Festivo by Edward Gregson.

The Lent Term is also when we work with Southbank Sinfonia, our Orchestra in Residence, which this year involved the preparation of a performance of Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony. Forty of our most advanced orchestral players sat side-by-side their professional counterparts in two days of rehearsals leading to the concert on 10 March at St John’s Church, Waterloo. Conducted by David Corkhill, this was a remarkable occasion: there are videos clips of the evening available on the Music Department’s Facebook Page – facebook/CVMSMusic. Southbank Sinfonia also gave a concert to the Lower School boys, performing extracts from Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony (directed by Thomas Fetherstonhaugh) and took part in a composing workshop with members of the Lower and Upper Sixth.

The Easter Concert this year involved a performance of Elijah by Mendellsohn.  We have performed this work before (in 2008) and it was wonderful to return to it as it a piece that the boys love to sing. Full of colour and variety the oratorio flows beautifully, telling incidents from the eventful life of the great prophet. We were joined by four truly outstanding soloists and the performing was really of a very high standard.

CS Price
Director of Music


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