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. 


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