Saturday, December 30, 2017

Music in Michaelmas Term 2017

This is what appeared in the Vaughan's End of Term Review for Michaelmas Term 2017.

Life in the Music Department has been very busy since September and the term has been characterised by a strong, positive approach to rehearsals with lots of lovely music-making as a consequence. There have been a number of concerts of course and many other events besides where the boys have been able to display their musical skills.  The concerts are only the visible aspect of what we do – rather like a swan (or maybe it an iceberg is a better analogy!) the energy that drives the music department is working away very hard under the surface whilst it appears to glide effortlessly across the water! [someone is getting carried away!] The beating heart of this engine is the music class lessons – taught to a very good standard and taken very seriously by all the music teachers. Mr Jackson, as Head of Academic Music does great work in this aspect of the School’s musical life, as do Mr Harris and Mr Evans. Beyond the class lessons there are very many (more than 400) instrumental and singing lessons taking place each week. The visiting instrumental staff are very strong and our pupils are very fortunate to have such a talented and dedicated team of teachers. And looking after all of this of course is our administrator, Tanya Watkins. If you have been in communication with Miss Watkins you will I am quite sure have found her thoroughly helpful and supremely organised. Nothing is too much trouble for Tanya. We are very lucky to have her working with us. Very many thanks to all those involved in the music work at the School – I am truly fortunate to lead such a great team. We were all very pleased to learn the Department has been nominated for ‘Best School Music Department’ Award in the Music Teacher Awards for Excellence, to be decided in February. Fingers crossed that we might win and many thanks to the parents who I assume must have nominated us!

There were two excellent Early Evening Recitals this term, the first in October given by the younger boys and the second in November by the older boys and girls. The second concert included a very good performance of Bach’s E major Violin concerto with Harry Fetherstonhaugh of the Fifth Form as soloist. It was a different violinist, Molly McFadden of the Upper Sixth who was soloist with Senior Strings at Speech Day, giving a strong performance of Spring from the Four Seasons by Vivaldi. Molly has made huge strides in her playing since joining the School and is now a very accomplished player.

In October the Sixth Form Choir sang Evensong alongside the Choir of Merton College, Oxford, in the splendid setting of Merton Chapel. One of our former pupils is currently Organ Scholar there. This was a very lovely occasion and the choir sang very well indeed. The excellent standard of the Sixth Form Choir could be heard very clearly at the St Cecilia Concert in November when they sang music by Dyson. I have not heard the girls singing so strongly for many years – congratulations to them and to Mr Jackson for leading them with such skill.

The St Cecilia concert at St Paul’s Hammersmith was a splendid occasion, very well attended by large numbers of parents as is so wonderfully the norm for Vaughan concerts – how lucky we are to enjoy such support. First Orchestra opened proceedings with a strong reading of the Karelia Suite by Sibelius. I am not sure why it has taken me 23 years to do this piece with the orchestra as it is a perfect fit and the orchestra greatly enjoyed learning it and performing it. It featured our excellent horn section, with Joshua Schrijnen of the Fifth Form leading from the front, and also a really quite exquisite cor anglais solo from Oliviero Kelly of the Fourth Form. Oliviero had only picked up the cor anglais for the first time a few weeks before and so his performance, which was so beautifully shaped and musical, was all the more remarkable. First Orchestra has been in excellent form this term and attendance has been strong – I am very much looking forward to working with them next term.

The Schola also sang in the St Cecilia concert, performing some items from the recent South Africa Tour, including a piece in Zulu entitled Ukuthula which came complete with (minimal!) choreography (or choralography as it sometimes called). This may well have been a first for the Schola. The boys also sang Mendelssohn’s Hear My Prayer, not with one soloist as on our recent recording (which you can buy on iTunes) but with the treble solo duties shared between nine boys. It is great to have such depth of ability within the choir.

Second Orchestra also performed very nicely that evening and Senior Strings performed the Vivaldi Concerto referred to above with Molly McFadden as soloist. Her performance quite rightly received a very warm reception. Earlier in the concert we also enjoyed the Concert Band in a medley of songs by Frank Sinatra which had everyone foot-tapping along. The main work of the evening though was Beethoven’s Mass in C, performed by School Choir, directed by Mr Jackson. Putting together these large-scale works with orchestra and a big choir is not easy, especially in a very short time-frame, and Mr Jackson did a super job of bringing it all together on the day, as he had done teaching the work to the choir during the term. It was a very good performance with lots of solo singing from the pupils and an excellent, confident choral sound.

The Big Band played at the Bull’s Head in Barnes in October, entertaining a large crowd with a fun afternoon of swing and jazz tunes. They also played at the Senior Citizens Christmas Party in December, giving the annual airing to the Big Band Christmas numbers we know and love. Senior Brass were on good from at the Vaughan’s foundation Day Mass at Westminster Cathedral in September are also due to play music by Gabrieli at the start of Tuesday’s Carol Service. This will be the first time for a number of years that we have been able to get a group of Brass players together to play before the opening of the service and I am very pleased with the determined way the boys have approached this music and grateful to Mr Gucklhorn who has taught them with great patience and fortitude.

The Schola Cantorum has had a very strong term, the centrepiece of which was the tour to South Africa. This was a wonderful experience for us all. The choir continues to sing each week at the School’s Mass and there have been several whole school occasions when it has sang too – Foundation Day Mass at Westminster Cathedral, Speech Day and Mass for the Feast of All Saints at Our Lady of Victories being three such instances. The choir has also been very busy outside of School, singing for a Remembrance Day Evensong at Holy Trinity, Sloane Square in November and also traveling to Cambridge to give a joint Evensong in the famous chapel of St John’s College. Towards the end of term there have been numerous Carol Services, including one rather unusual evening when the trebles were at The National Liberal Club whilst the Tenors and Basses were entertaining at The Athenaeum. The younger boys also sang for the Mayor of Kensington and Chelsea’s Carol Service, given in the presence of HRH Princess Michael of Kent. The boys got to meet Her Royal Highness afterwards, with the main topic of conversation being the wonderful fur coat she was wearing.

Rehearsals in the final weeks of term focused around the Carol Service and also Handel’s Messiah, which the Schola sang at Holy Trinity, Sloane Square in December. The boys just love singing Messiah and they know it well – we sang it last year too. The treble line in the Schola is especially strong at the moment and the combination of these factors made for, if I can say so myself, a very strong performance, easily the best concert I have given with the choir. There were very strong solo contributions from Aidan Cole, Sam Lyne-Hall, Joe Walshe, James Outtrim, Jaedon DeMello, Alessio D’Andrea, Karol Jozwik, Alex Gula, Benedykt Chodzko-Zajko, Joseph Guzman Santamaria and Harold Ayres. We drew a very large audience and were very pleased as a result to be able to make a donation of £1000 to Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital – one of the boys in the Schola has received treatment there for a number of year and it was lovely to be able to give the concert in support of the amazing work of that wonderful institution.

The night before our performance of Messiah the younger boys had been at St John’s, Smith Square, performing alongside the Gabrieli Consort and conductor Paul McCreesh in a performance of music by Praetorius, celebrating the 500 anniversary of the Reformation. This involved extensive singing in German as well as our more usual Latin, in quite exposed solo verses. The boys acquitted themselves very well in front of a large audience, including four boys, Aidan Cole, Sam Lyne-Hall, Joe Walshe and James Outtrim who sang very beautiful solos. Aidan opened the concert with a totally unaccompanied solo verse, hidden away at the back of St John’s. He is particularly fearless, though none of the boys appear fazed by these high pressure situations. They just get on with it! The Schola boys have all worked very hard this term and especially in the past few weeks as Christmas has approached. I thank them for their efforts and also their parents for the invaluable support they provide.

So all in all a very good term’s work. Many thanks to all the parents, pupils and staff who have worked together to make it all possible. Next term is full of exciting events including the Big Band Evening, the annual collaboration with Southbank Sinfonia, a trip to York Minster for the Schola, our annual Music Competition and lots more besides. Do follow us on Twitter (@cvmsmusic) and on Facebook (FB/cvmsmusic) to be kept up to date with the goings on on the top floor!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

The year ahead: 2017-18

Another exciting year lies ahead for the music-making at the Vaughan with the singers and instrumentalists again set to perform a wide variety of music, alongside a number of professional groups and in many different settings.

Performances will be given in London and beyond at venues that are to include Merton College, Oxford, St John's College, Cambridge, Southwark Cathedral and York Minster, Arundel Cathedral, St John's Smith Square and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Highlights will include the tenth anniversary of our partnership with Southbank Sinfonia, which we will celebrate with a concert in March. The Big Band, marking twenty years since its first performance, will play at the Bull's Head in Barnes once again as well as leading the annual Big Band celebration. Choral highlights will include Beethoven's Mass in C in the Michaelmas Term sung by the School Choir and for the Sixth Form Choir, singing Evensong at Merton College, Oxford in October and at Southwark Cathedral in November.

The Schola Cantorum will perform Handel's Messiah in December, accompanied by St James' Baroque at Holy Trinity, Sloane Square and in April will perform once again alongside His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts in a performance of Monteverdi's Vespers of 1610, to be given at St James's, Spanish Place.

In October the Schola travels to South Africa for the first time, singing concerts and services, including at Regina Mundi Cathedral in Soweto and St George's Cathedral, Cape Town. The Schola is also to work alongside school and youth choirs in a wide variety of settings during the trip.

In January boys from the Vaughan will return to the Royal Opera House once again, singing in Puccini's Tosca, some performances of which are to be conducted by Placido Domingo.

Other highlights will no doubt include the St Cecilia Concert in November, the Carol Service at the end of the Michaelmas Term, the Spring Instrumental Concert in March and of course the year will end with our musical - which show it will be is yet to be decided!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Music in the Lent Term 2017: A Review

This Lent Term began and ended with the remarkable achievement of one pupil in particular, Owen Saldanha in the Upper Sixth. It began with Owen performing with the National Youth Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall and ended with his performing Ravel’s G major Piano Concerto at St John’s, Smith Square, as part of the Vaughan’s Easter Concert. Owen is a prodigiously gifted musician – this term has seen him add a Diploma on the Piano (passed with Distinction) to the ARCO qualification that he achieved on the organ last term. He also won the Vaughan’s Music Competition, although he was run pretty close that evening by another remarkable talent, Filippo Turkheimer. And these are just two of the many, and it is many, remarkable musicians that we have at the School. In all different kinds of music too. What a precious gift the musical traditions of the School are – and how lucky we are that so many pupils take full advantage of it.

Throughout the term we have run our Annual Music Competition with 90 pupils participating in five heats. The Final held at the end of March was adjudicated by David Hill, conductor of the BBC Singers and the Bach Choir. David awarded the first places to Alessio D’Andrea and Owen, as I mentioned above, whilst describing the standard of the performances as a whole as “extraordinary”.

The winners of the Heats were as follows:

Piano (Adjudicator, Anthony Williams, Radley College)
Junior: Alessandro Mackinnon & Alexander Wu
Senior: William Crossley &Owen Saldanha

Strings (Adjudicator, Adrian Bradbury, Cellist)
Junior: Gabriele Montone & Nilton Aranda Neto
Senior: Harry Fetherstonhaugh & Justin Perfecto

Woodwind (Adjudicator, Amanda Cousin, Flautist)
Junior: Dominic de Vivenot & Luke Ngyuen
Senior: Logan Stewart & Owen Saldanha

Brass (Adjudicator, Amos Miller, Trombonist)
Junior: Barnaby Stewart & Joshua Schrijnen
Senior: Filippo Turkheimer & Joseph Bingham Cooper

Singing (Adjudicator, Diana Moore, Mezzo Soprano)
Junior: Alessio D’Andrea & James Fernandes
Senior: Sean Roche Watson, Filippo Trukheimer & Emilia Staniaszek

Overall Winners (Adjudicator, David Hill, Conductor & Organist)
Junior: Alessio D’Andrea
Senior: Owen Saldanha

Earlier in the term we once again held our annual collaboration with Southbank Sinfonia, our ‘orchestra in residence’. This involved an excellent composition workshop, with the professional musicians bringing to life compositions by pupils from across the School and then side-by-side preparation of Brahms’ Fourth Symphony, conducted by David Corkhill (see video below).  Working with Southbank Sinfonia is always one of the highlights of the School’s music year and this year was no exception. It was especially rewarding to see how very excited by the work this year’s set of Vaughan participants were and also lovely to see how very positive and helpful this year’s Southbank Sinfonia contingent were too. This is a wonderful collaboration that next year will celebrate its tenth anniversary: there are big plans afoot!

The orchestra also performed at the Spring Concert, held at St Paul’s Church in March. We set the church up differently to try to help people see more clearly what was going on - sight lines are not easy in that building – and this seemed to work very well. The older boys and girls played very nicely that evening but it was the work of the younger boys that was particularly impressive. Second Orchestra has never been so big or so strong – under the expert guidance of Mr Jackson it is flourishing and has developed that all important sense of identity as a group, with which comes loyalty and commitment. Also really very good were Jazz Orchestra, superbly directed by Miss Wilby, who also steered the stronger than ever Junior Big Band through their contribution. It was lovely to see the younger boys playing with such confidence in some complicated music, and also lovely to see that way that the older boys were so supportive of their younger fellow musicians. This was an evening marked by a strong sense of camaraderie among the pupils.  Mention should also be made of Mr Manoras who directed both Junior and Senior Strings with his customary flair and precision. 

The Big Band performed at the Spring Concert and have been busy elsewhere besides this term, playing at the Half Moon in Putney in January and at the Bulls Head in Barnes at the end of term. In February we held the always popular Big Band Evening, at which there were some excellent vocalists alongside the Band, providing an evening of real entertainment. If you’ve never seen a Big Band concert do come along – we do have a quite a good time! The Band is always in a state of flux and we are about to lost some good players as this year’s Upper Sixth leave, but some of the younger boys who have been finding their feet in important seats in the band are now fully establishing themselves and the band shows great potential.

The Schola Cantorum has worked very hard this term, singing each Wednesday for the School Mass whilst also preparing a number of memorable events. Early in the term we sang for the Vigil Mass at Westminster Cathedral and then a little later in January gave a concert at St Peter’s, Eaton Square for Aid to the Church in Need. At the concert the Schola gave its first ever performance of The Twelve by William Walton, a famously difficult work, both for the choir and the organist (see the video below). The Schola acquitted itself admirably, assisted, as always, by the quite brilliant accompanying of Mr Evans. The concert, which also included the Requiem by Duruflé, raised £750 for the crucial work of ACN. 

In February the Schola travelled to Liverpool, having been granted the considerable honour of singing the Sunday services as guests of the Metropolitan Cathedral. We had a great weekend, also singing a concert at the Dome from Home, on the Wirral.  Before half-term the Schola also sang the first performance of the winning composition in a competition run for the Music Education Expo held at the Olympia. 

For Ash Wednesday, at Our Lady of Victories for the whole School, the Schola prepared the annual performance of Allegri’s Miserere with the famous top C acrobatics for one of the trebles. The duty fell to Aidan Cole this year, who sang them admirably, assisted by James Fernandes who sang one, and also by Joseph Short who sang the less flamboyant but arguably more difficult second treble part in the repeating solo verses.

Most of this half-term was spent preparing for a very special event though, a concert entitled Festa Venziana!, given with an ensemble called His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts and tenors Nicholas Mulroy and Peter Davoren. His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts perform on instruments that are the same as those used in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and together we presented a programme of music from Venice at that time. The concert was given in the twelfth century Temple Church, the first time the Schola has performed there, and as part of the Temple Music Foundation Concert Series. Being involved in this prestigious concert series helped us draw a large audience and also resulted in the concert being professionally reviewed – four stars! 

There was one further event for the Schola when at the end of March the choir sang Evensong at Westminster Abbey. This was an especially lovely occasion marked by some very fine singing from the choir in music by Henry Purcell, who was organist at the Abbey and is buried just a few feet from where the choir sang.

The term came to an end with the Easter Concert, held on Saturday 8 April at St John’s, Smith Square. This included the Ravel G major Piano Concerto performed by Owen Saldanha; Owen gave the most remarkably brilliant performance of this difficult, complex work, accompanied exquisitely by the Belgravia Chamber Orchestra.  This was followed by the most colossal undertaking for many years by the Music Department, as we performed Vaughan William’s A Sea Symphony. This huge work, a setting of poetry by Walt Whitman, represented a very considerable challenge but the choir rose magnificently to the occasion. We were joined by two wonderful professional soloists, Sarah Fox and Duncan Rock. It brought to a close a wonderful term of music-making, full of variety and challenge for all. Well done to everyone who has been of this term's roller-coaster ride and very many thanks to the parents for all their support. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

Music in Lent Term 2017

A very busy term lies ahead for the Vaughan's musicians with a series of concert opportunities that sees the boys and girls performing all across London and beyond.

Throughout the term we will run our Annual Music Competition. Each competition is held at the Vaughan, starting at 6 pm.

Wednesday 25 January: Strings: Adjudicator Adrian Bradbury (cellist)
Tuesday 31 January: Piano: Adjudicator, Anthony Williams
Wednesday 8 February: Woodwind: Adjudicator, Amanda Moore (flautist)
Wednesday 22 February: Brass: Adjudicator, Amos Miller (trombonist)
Wednesday 8 March: Singing: Adjudicator, Diana Moore
Wednesday 29 March: Prize Winners final: Adjudicator, David Hill

The term also contains our annual collaboration with Southbank Sinfonia, our orchestra in residence. They will lead a composing workshop on Tuesday 7 February and then our musicians will sit side-by-side with them for a performance of Brahms' Fourth Symphony at 6 pm on Thursday 2 March at St John's, Waterloo.

The School's orchestras and other instrumental ensembles will be on display at our Spring Instrumental Concert which will be held at St Paul's School at 7 pm on Friday 24 March (please note this date has changed from that given in the School Calendar).

The Big Band will be performing that evening and also making two further appearances, at the Half Moon in Putney on Sunday January 29 (1.30 pm) and at the annual Big Band Evening which this year is held in the New Hall on Friday 3 February. The Big Band will be joined for this event by Junior Big Band.

Sixth Form Choir will sing an Evensong at St Gabriel's Church in Pimlico on Sunday 5 March (6.15 pm) and also join with the School Choir for the annual Easter Concert which this year to be held at St John's, Smith Square on Saturday 8 April (please note this is the day after the end of term). The School Choir that evening will sing Vaughan Williams' monumental Sea Symphony. The soloists will be Sarah Fox and Duncan Rock. In the first half of the concert Owen Saldanha will perform Ravel's G major Piano Concerto. This promises to be a memorable evening.

The Schola Cantorum, as well as providing music for the School's weekly liturgies, are to sing two concerts this term. On Thursday 26 January they sing a programme of twentieth century music (Dupré, Walton and Duruflé) at St Peter's, Eaton Square. This concert will raise money for the charity Aid to the Church in Need. On March 14 the Schola will join forces with His Majesty's Sagbutts and Cornetts for a concert entitled Festa Veneziana, an evening of Venetian polychoral music, which is the held at the historic Temple Church in the City of London. Joined by tenor soloists Nicholas Mulroy and Peter Davoren, this concert is given as part of the Temple Music Foundation Concert Series.

In addition the Schola will sing for the Vigil Mass at Westminster Cathedral at 6 pm on Saturday 21 January and 18 March. The choir will also sing for the Solemn Mass at Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral on Sunday 5 February and will sing Evensong at Westminster Abbey on Tuesday 28 March.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Michaelmas Term 2016 Review

The Music Department has been a hive of activity this term once again with many pupils taking full advantage of the varied musical opportunities at the School. We began the year with a record number of boys taking Music at GCSE in the Third Form and with Mr Jackson’s exciting new music curriculum coming into full force. I hope that the boys have enjoyed their Lower School music lessons this term. We were also very pleased to reflect on some outstanding exam results in the Summer where the Music Department was once again among the very highest achieving aspects of the School at all levels. There’s more going on than just concerts on the top floor!

But there have been plenty of concert opportunities as well with a few events standing out. In October we welcomed the National Youth Jazz Orchestra to the School for a joint concert with our Big Band. What an amazing evening it was. Here is a clip - Henry Wolcott in the Fourth Form is the tenor soloist.

The Big Band also made a return visit to the Bull’s Head in Barnes, as well as performing for the Senior Citizens Christmas Party and also playing at the National Concert Band Festival London Heat, which was held once again at the Vaughan early in December. It was our Concert Band that shone that particular day though, winning a Gold Award  - congratulations to them and to Miss Wilby who directs the Concert Band with great skill and commitment.Here they are, playing in the St Cecilia Concert in November. 

Miss Wilby also arranged the two very lovely Early Evening Recitals we held this term – one for the younger boys and a second one for the older students who are taking GCSE and A Level. There was some very encouraging playing in both concerts. 

This might be an opportune moment to thank the instrumental teachers for their work – what a sterling job they do week after week. We were all very sorry to learn that Adam Wright, who has taught the trumpet at the Vaughan for 15 years, was no longer able to make the teaching fit around his young family and would therefore be leaving at the end of this term. Adam has been a first-class trumpet teacher and a delightful colleague and we will all miss his greatly professional presence very much.

Someone else who left early this term was our Administrator, Mr Brennan. Dominic, an Old Vaughanian, had been with us for three years and in that time done a great deal of lovely work for the Department. Dominic was always a real pleasure to work with and we all wish him the very best for the future as he begins a new career in the world of wine. I was very pleased to appoint Thomas Marshall to cover in the period up until Christmas – he has been a delight – and in January we welcome our new Music Administrator, Tanya Watkins. Tanya has great experience in the role having been the Music Administrator at Kingston Grammar School for the past eight years. We all look forward very much to seeing what she brings to the Department and to working with her in the years ahead.

The St Cecilia Concert in November was very well attended and the large audience of parents and friends were treated to an evening of English music (other than Second Orchestra who performed Brahms and Dvorak!). Highlights included Handel from Senior Strings 9pictured below), lots of lovely Eric Coates and some beautiful Vaughan Williams from the School Choir with two superb solo contributions from Filippo Turkheimer and Luciano Cuscack. 

The St Cecilia Concert also saw a performance from Sixth Form Choir (pictured above), which has gone from strength to strength this year. Numbering at one point over 100 it has now settled to a more manageable fifty or so and they have been busy, singing for an Evensong at Selwyn College, Cambridge and also for the Vigil Mass at Westminster Cathedral late in November. This was the first time that the Sixth Form girls have sung at Westminster Cathedral and it was very lovely to hear them in that most famous of spaces for choral music (see picture below). This is a very exciting time to be in the Sixth Form Choir, under the super direction of Mr Jackson and I hope that those involved will work just as hard next term so that they can build on the momentum achieved this term. 

The Schola Cantorum has been very busy as always, aided by the introduction of some very talented new First Form boys in September. Seventeen boys sang in English National Opera’s spectacular production of Tosca across the term (more photos HERE).

Other highlights include an Evensong at Winchester Cathedral in September (pictures below) and a beautiful service at Holy Trinity, Sloane Square for Remembrance Sunday. The Schola gave a concert for the Army Benevolent Fund at Haileybury School in October and sang the Duruflé Requiem for our own Remembrance Mass in November. The Schola sang twice at Westminster Cathedral during the term and also led the singing at a Mass to celebrate Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor’s fiftieth anniversary of joining the Priesthood. 

Time at the end of term was spent learning Handel’s Messiah for a concert performance given at St Gabriel’s, Pimlico in December. This was a memorable evening with the solos sung by the boys of the choir (sixteen of them) as well as the choruses. In preparation for this we welcomed internationally renowned conductor Paul McCreesh to the School to take the boys through their paces. 

The short video below shows a few moments of video from the evening whilst the second film is a collection of photos cut together with a longer selection of moments from the performance. 

The term ended with the Annual Carol Service, which included the first performance of a new Carol by Ben Parry commissioned for the evening, who among other things directs the National Youth Choir.  The video below contains photographs taken on the evening along with a short selection from the carols which include music by Handel, Howells, Gardener and Cornelius as well as a snippet from the first performance of Ben Parry's Quem Pastores Laudavere.

Next term has lots to keep us busy – these events include the Big Band Evening in early February, a concert by the Schola at the Temple Church in March, the Annual Music Competition and the Easter Concert which this year is being held at St John’s, Smith Square and is a performance of Vaughan Williams’s remarkable Sea Symphony. I hope you will be able to join us at some of the many events that will fill the weeks between now and Easter. In the meantime, thanks to all who have supported the Music this term and best wishes to everyone for Christmas and the New Year!

Music Department Brochure of Events for 2016-17

The Music Department has published a Brochure of Events for the academic year 2016-17.

The brochure, which gives details of all our concerts, competitions and recitals this school year, plus other information besides, can be viewed online by clocking on the front cover below.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Looking ahead to 2016-17

The year ahead promises to be another very exciting one for the musicians at the Vaughan.

Pupils are to perform at a whole host of different venues across London and beyond including St John’s, Smith Square, The London Coliseum, Westminster Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Winchester Cathedral (pictured) and alongside groups as varied as early music specialists His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts to the amazing National Youth Jazz Orchestra.

Choral highlights include a performance by the Schola Cantorum of Handel’s Messiah in December and of Vaughan Williams’ colossal Sea Symphony by the School Choir in April. The Schola will sing a concert of Venetian polychoral music in the glorious setting of Temple Church (pictured) with His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts in March whilst Sixth Form Choir sing Evensong at Selwyn College, Cambridge in November. Boys will sing in English National Opera’s production of Tosca during the Michaelmas Term and in Turandot at the Royal Opera House in July. The Carol Service will include the first performance of a new carol by Ben Parry, director of the National Youth Choir.

Orchestral music will include Brahms Symphony No 4 alongside our orchestral partners, Southbank Sinfonia in March whilst the Big Band are to play at The Bull’s Head, Barnes and the Half-Moon, Putney as well as working with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra in October.

There will be all the usual events as well of course, including the St Cecilia Concert in November, the Vaughan Carol Service at Christmas, the Spring Instrumental Concert in March, Early Evening Recitals and the Annual Music Competition. The year will end with the ever-popular musical production, which this year is to be Stephen Sondheim’s masterpiece, Sweeney Todd.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Schola Tour to Rome, July 2016

This article on the Schola's Tour to Rome is to appear in the Vaughan Magazine at the start of this term. 

The Schola’s Tour To Rome, July 2016

The Schola visits Rome at least once every seven years – the idea being that any boy who sings in the choir throughout his time in the School will be guaranteed to go there once. And so it was time for the choir to return once again to the Eternal City which it did for four days at the end of June and early July this year.

46 boys traveled on a Thursday evening, accompanied by Mr Price, Mr Evans, Mr Jackson, Miss Wilby and School Chaplain, Father Dominic. Our flight out was delayed somewhat by new British Airways check-in systems but we finally arrived. Only on landing did we discover that the pilot was an Old Vaughanian and some of the boys got to go into the cockpit. After a late dinner we retired as we had an early start. The reason for getting up at the crack of dawn was that it had been arranged for the choir to take a private tour of the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel. What an experience this was, in particular the Sistine Chapel which the boys were able to enjoy at their leisure and also benefit from the tremendous learning of our guide. We also spent time at the Vatican’s new Carriage Museum, which includes many fascinating vehicles that have transported Popes over the years, including the jeep in which John Paul II was shot in 1981. 

After a pizza lunch we spent a little time resting at the hotel before going to the Venerable English College where we had kindly been allowed to rehearse for an hour. Dinner was then followed by the rehearsal at our first concert venue, Sant Eustachio, which was luckily just around the corner from our hotel. Following the rehearsal the boys returned to the hotel to put on their cassocks and then rather proudly walked through the Roman streets dressed in their finery to many admiring and perhaps bemused onlookers. The concert was well attended (not least by the many parents who had flown out to join us) and had some very fine singing in a programme that included the Fauré Requiem.

Saturday saw us turn left out of the hotel rather than right and therefore head down to the Roman Forum and eventually the Colosseum. It was very hot and so staying in the shade was very important, not easy to do in the Colosseum but the boys enjoyed their time there and perhaps even more the pizza lunch that followed. Our plans to explore the Church of San Clemente (which contains the original Schola Cantorum – an area set aside for the choir) were scuppered by the Roman siesta (which given the heat, we could all understand the need for) but we spent a happy few minutes exploring St John Lateran, the Pope’s church in Rome, before going to the Scala Sancta. Brought from Jerusalem to Rome in the Fourth Century by St Helena, the Scala Sancta are the stairs that Christ climbed to be taken before Pontius Pilate. The boys were given a guided tour and then, in a rare opportunity indeed, were allowed to enter the chapel at the top of the stairs, the Sancta Sanctorum (the Holy of Holies) which was the original Papal Chapel (prior to the building of the Sistine Chapel) and where many relics are preserved. The boys then sang for a beautiful short service led by Father Dominic.

Crossing back across the road to St John Lateran, one of Rome’s four Papal Basilicas, we prepared to sing for Mass. We spent the conventional twenty minutes or so working out how to turn the organ on before rehearsing. The boys then sang for Mass, singing four motets very beautifully. Dinner followed at the wonderful Polese restaurant on the Corso Vittorio Emanuele (highly recommended!) where the atmosphere was heightened by the fact that Italy were playing Germany in the European Championships (hoping to get as far as Wales had already done). The waiters had great fun scaring the boys with car horns and generally getting them as excited as possible before we had to leave for what I had hoped would be an early night  - a penalty shoot out put an end to that. 

The following morning was to be the highlight of the trip as we were to sing for the Capitular Latin Mass at St Peter’s Basilica. This is the main mass of Sunday, attended by the Chapter of St Peter’s and therefore involving around sixty priests and on this occasion three bishops. The Schola would sing alongside the Cappella Giulia, the choir of St Peter’s Basilica, alternating with them in the chant setting of the Mass the Creed. The Capella Giulia had invited the Schola to join them when they heard the choir at its last visit to St Peters in 2010. Any thoughts that we might rehearse together were somewhat wishful thinking but the boys were more than capable of rising to the challenge and sang with great confidence in the chant and in the four motets they sang on their own. The Mass concluded with the boys singing Tu Es Petrus by Palestrina, the text being the same as that written around the dome of St Peters in letters that are thirty feet high. This was quite a moment and a wonderful conclusion to what was a truly memorable occasion in the history of the choir.

A very happy lunch followed where the boys were entertained by local musicians before we returned to the hotel for a little quiet time as there was still the challenge of the evening concert ahead. This concert was to be given at Sant’Ignazio, Rome’s most prestigious church concert venue. The church is famous for many things, not least the false dome that is painted onto the flat ceiling. It also possesses a wonderful acoustic for singing and the choir sounded very beautiful in the building. The concert consisted of music associated with Rome, including the famous Allegri Miserere, some English music and also the German composer Rheinberger’s wonderful Cantus Missa in E flat for double choir. A standing ovation greeted the Schola at the end of the Balfour Gardiner Evening Hymn which closed the concert and the boys could feel rightly proud of their efforts at the end of what had been a very long but wonderful day. 

The following morning we visited Castel Sant’Angelo, the Mausoleum of Hadrian, built in the Second Century. Amongst many claims to fame, the roof terrace of the castle serves as the location for the final act of Puccini’s opera Tosca, which opens with a famous boy treble solo (the Shepherd Boy). There are three boys in the Schola who have sung this solo at Covent Garden in recent years and so we tweeted to the Royal Opera them a picture of the three Shepherds (no reply as yet). 

Half the Schola then proceeded to get lost in the castle but once they had been recovered we went to do some last-minute shopping before a final lunch, some kind gifts for the teachers, and a bus journey to the airport, stopping for quick look around St Paul’s Outside the Walls on the way. 

British Airways had seemingly not fixed their systems as check-in at Fiumicino was dreadfully slow. The plane had to be held for us (we were half of it) and further delays in the air and with a lost bag on the ground meant that we returned a couple of hours late but nonetheless happy and satisfied with our short trip to Rome. The boys can be very proud indeed of the way that they sang and the ambassadors that there were for the School. Many thanks to them for being such great company and to the staff who made the trip possible. All roads lead to Rome of course and I am sure that in seven year’s time, if not before, we will be back in the Eternal City. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Schola Cantorum Review of the Year 2015-16

This article will appear in the Vaughan School Magazine to be published at the start of this term. Here is a sneak preview!

The Schola Cantorum 2015-16

This has been very eventful year for the Schola and the choir has sung a vast repertoire of music in all sorts of different settings and styles. As always, the heart of our work continues to be the singing each week at the Lower School Mass. We have also this year been able to lead the School’s worship at several visits to Our Lady of Victories Church, for a Remembrance Mass in November, for Ash Wednesday in February, for the Feast of the Holy Martyrs in May and for the Feast of St Peter and Paul in June. The Schola has continued its close relationship with Westminster Cathedral and has sung there on six occasions including Foundation Day Mass in September. We were also fortunate to sing Evensong at St Paul’s Cathedral in April and also a service for Remembrance Sunday in November at Holy Trinity, Sloane Square. The annual Carol Service at Our Lady of Victories remains as popular as ever and this year saw some very fine singing, including a new carol composed for us by Mychael Danna, composer of the Oscar winning score for Life of Pi which featured the boys voices. 

The year began with the Schola competing in the finals of the London International Acapella Festival, a prestigious competition which we were delighted to have been invited to participate, the only youth choir in an otherwise all adult choir field. As part of the festival, the Schola took part in a workshop with Peter Philips, the founder of the famous Tallis Scholars and also gave a lunchtime recital, singing an hour of acapella music. We then competed in the evening, singing music by Gabriel Jackson, the resident composer of the festival, amongst other works. The choir received some very complimentary comments from the judges, not least from Peter Philips who wrote about the Schola in his column in the Spectator magazine. We did not make it through to the final but it was interesting to see that the competition has been given a different shape for next year and will contain a class for youth choirs.

This has been a busy year for opera work for the trebles and we have been involved in four professional productions. In October boys sang in La Bohéme at English National Opera and in December we provided the boys for the Royal Opera’s production of the double bill Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci.  This was filmed and broadcast later in the year on BBC Four. We returned to the Royal Opera in May for a production of Enescu’s Oedipe and ended the year on more familiar territory, singing in La Bohéme at Opera Holland Park. 

There have been some notable concert performance also during the course of the year. In October the choir sang a performance of Mozart’s Requiem at Holy Trinity, Sloane Square. The Lent Term focused on the preparation of JS Bach’s St John Passion, which was performed twice, at Holy Trinity, Sloane Square on Thursday 17 March and then again at Douai Abbey in Berkshire on Saturday 19 March. This is a monumental work and was a major achievement by the Schola to learn it, in German. As well as singing the choruses, the boys also sang the arias and smaller solo roles. We were joined by leading Evangelist Nicholas Mulroy and by Old Vaughnian Jerome Knox who sang the part of Christ. The Schola also sang a concert as part of the Brandenburg Festival in April and another concert in the Marylebone Festival in June (where they were conducted by Sue Perkins!).

The Schola recorded a new CD, of the Fauré Requiem, in November, recording for the first time with an orchestra, our friends in the Belgravia Chamber Orchestra. The results were very pleasing and the CD is now available from the School. In addition boys were involved in lots of different commercial recordings including several film soundtracks and even the music for a fashion show. There was an enquiry about the boys singing on the latest U2 album but at the time of writing that has not yet happened! One of the most exciting events of the year was not a recording but a live performance at the Royal Albert Hall in December of the music of the film Alice In Wonderland, sung with a huge orchestra whilst the film was shown on a giant screen. 

As I write, the Schola are preparing to travel to Rome for a short tour which will include singing for the Capitular Sunday Mass at St Peter’s Basilica. There will be news of this no doubt on the Music Department Blog and the Schola’s website, On the website you can also learn about next year’s plans for the choir. These include operas at Covent Garden and the Collesium, a performance of Handel’s Messiah and a concert with His Majesty’s Sagbutts and Cornetts at the Temple Church.

Finally, some thanks. I am grateful as always to Mr Evans, who contributes so much in so many ways to the work of the Schola. I would very much like to thank the School's Singing Teachers, all five of whom have given the boys wonderful guidance and instruction this year. I would also like to thank the parents of the choir – having a boy in the Schola is a big commitment. And of course I would like to thank the boys who really do work very hard. I look forward very much to seeing where our adventures take us next year!

Scott Price
Director of Music