Wednesday 5 March 2014
How resplendent the Chapel Choir look in their new robes. It’s been a bit of a pet project of mine so it’s heartening to see that the robes have arrived and the boys are wearing them this evening at the Ash Wednesday Sung Eucharist at St Helen’s Church. The choir really is going from strength to strength and it’s good to see new voices coming in to the choir - performing Byrd’s Mass in 4 parts and – and they sound fantastic. Many appreciative comments from clergy, parishioners and parents attending who share in this moving service.
Monday 3 March 2014
An early rise for all the candidates for the 3rd Year academic scholarship now dotted around outside Big School. Parents offer their sons encouragement and useful tips. The School bell tolls its usual Monday morning peal of 63 rings, plus a few, as Dr Chris Burnand, Master of Scholars, escorts his charges to the CMR for a day of much thought and concentration sitting the various papers.
Saturday 1 March 2014
March already, and, to those of an optimistic nature, the first day of spring. Crocuses are pushing up through the lawn at Lacies Court and it’s certainly warmer as the OA Club Committee meet for a full agenda followed by lunch. Later on to the Touchliners’ Dinner, which is a spectacular evening and full of fun. When I get up to speak at the reception, I’m rather bemused when introduced to the 100 or so parents and staff by someone with an Italian accent whom I’ve never seen before. Once seated for dinner, I turn to Peter Coke, Director of Rugby, and tell him that I’d never seen this person before (now a waiter bobbing around the dining hall). Peter, of course, was in on what was a brilliant spoof for three “waiters” had entered our midst and went on to provide the most brilliant entertainment. Guest speaker is Nick Cousins (President, London Rugby Referees’ Society, amongst other accolades) who does brilliantly to sustain the entertainment. And I win a prize in the Wacky Dip, a Touchliners’ scarf signed by Ben Kay (World Cup winner and ex-Leicester Tigers lock) so to be treasured, having secured an IOU from Peter Coke!
Friday 28 February 2014
The annual UCAS evening comes around very quickly it seems to me. Tonight Andrew Swarbrick (University Admissions Co-ordinator) introduces two key speakers, Katherine Pagett, Schools Liaison Officer, Birmingham University, and Mike Nicholson, Director of Undergraduate Admissions, Oxford University, to a packed hall of sixth form parents and boys before they help set them on course.
Thursday 27 February 2014
The new hymn books have arrived. On my desk, two copies, one of each colour, cerise and charcoal. The 80 hymns, our favourites, others seasonal and some lesser known, were chosen by a committee of boys who assisted the Chaplain and the Director of Music. The list of donors who funded the publication appears in the book along with various prayers. It will be good to see them in use and the replacement of the rather ancient, very dilapidated and somewhat dog-eared former books is long overdue. Much looking forward to hearing some great hymn singing boys!
Wednesday 26 February 2014
A highlight, the annual chamber music evening and this year… a record 14 ensembles. Quite astounding, and lots of brass groups too. Great to see the brass coming on, opening with Clarke’s “Trumpet Voluntary”. A viola octet, 8 players obviously, demonstrating the strength of our string playing. How many schools sport so many violas? Fantastic string quartets and mesmerising performance of Turina’s “La Oracion del Torero” (George Burrage, Thomas Kelly, Finlay Garland and Seb Johns) to set us up for the interval, one of the three finalists in the Pro Corda National Chamber Music Competition along with Horn trio, Hector Stinton, Alexander Foster, Hugh Cutting and Piano Trio David Chang, Jamie Cornish, Leon Wu, who play after the interval. They don’t disappoint.
Ensembles for violin, trumpet, viola, cello, clarinet, horn and trombone along with piano quartet and trio, string quartets and trios. A stunning evening of music making, masterminded by Mariette Pringle, Valerie Findlay, Nigel Somerville, Tim Payne and Andy Townsend.
Tuesday 25 February 2014
Quiet time in chapel and then all thought goes into the budget with key colleagues. An afternoon of further reflection at a memorial service for a remarkable person connected with the School. These occasions are very sad but how much we learn from the lives of others. Returned to prepare for tomorrow’s assembly, when a vast array of remarkable achievements are to be recognised from the UK Linguistics Olympiad, shooting and Film Unit to lots of music, sport and competitions. We haven’t had an acknowledgement assembly for a while as recent assemblies have had a different focus, so there’s quite a backlog. Good that Heads of School Leo and Thomas will be on hand to help out.
On to the 3rd Year Parents’ Evening. For many parents, this is their first experience here at Abingdon of gaining a snapshot of their sons, moving from teacher to teacher. I’m sure that there is lots of positive feedback and perhaps some timely tips where necessary.
Monday 24 February 2014
Met one of the younger boys on the drive who replied, when I asked how his half term had been, that it hadn’t been long enough. I must have looked askance; a week out during this short term is very welcome, but quite long enough. He quickly told me that he’d been working during the break and could have done with more time for a special project. U6 boys were also likely to have worked through the break, for today their mocks have begun and this is a good practice run in anticipation of the summer. Spent the evening grappling with the 2014/15 budget. What are the priorities? Which particular initiatives deserve funding? What might be shelved as having now had its day?
Friday 14 February 2014
Spare a thought for those in the Abingdon family who are affected by the extensive flooding along the Thames and elsewhere. The scenes that fill our TV screens on a daily basis look utterly terrible. I’ve heard dreadful tales of lives turned upside down. More to come this weekend, and I hope that the buses will get away before the deluge for the start of the half term break.
Friday 7 February 2014
Off to the Prep School for an important day, the interviews for the Deputy Head post. Along with Crispin Hyde-Dunn (Head, APS) and governor Jon Gabitass, we put the candidates through their paces and listen with much interest to their presentations. The evening sees the lively joint production of “Guys and Dolls” and a magnificent set. Rowan Edbrooke and I sit together enjoying the fast-moving display of talent. Star spots are Hugh Cutting (Sky Masterson), Seb Johns (Nathan Detroit), Marina Aspinall (Adelaide), and Heather Condor (Sarah Brown) with supporting roles from Sam and Edward Adamson as Big and Li'l Jule, and Jamie Blackwell as Nicely Nicely Johnson. Directed by Jo Watt and Ben Phillips, with choreography by none other than OA Toby Marlow.