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!


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