25 January 2017

Today was the day that our chamber musicians experienced some intensive workshops given by a young professional string quartet in preparation for the forthcoming National Chamber Music Festival for Schools, the qualifying round for which takes place just before half term.

The Fitzroy Quartet is a young professional quartet that has emerged from the Royal Academy of Music in London, where it had been mentored by Levon Chilingirian. The ensemble was engaged, thanks to Levon’s recommendation, to come and coach a number of our chamber groups and to give a short performance at the end of the afternoon.

The pictures give a sense of some of those rehearsals that took place in four different venues (one for each member of the quartet) and included a quintet, and several quartets and trios, for both strings and woodwind. Mariette Pringle, the School’s Head of Strings, put together a most effective timetable, which gave an opportunity for twelve sessions of coaching to take place over a period of some three hours.

It was fascinating to see how each ensemble progressed thanks to the thoughtful and encouraging teaching that the young professional players delivered. The informal play-through at the end of the afternoon enabled us all to hear some of the work – and most impressive it was, too.

The Junior Strings started with an enchanting version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which enabled them then to join the audience to hear what followed. We heard two 3rd Year string quartets led by new boys, Andreas Lo and Ashwin Tennant, respectively, a quartet of cellos playing Three Sea Songs and a 4th Year quintet, led by Alvin Tam, in some richly textured Mozart.

We were missing a few players due to illness or sport, so we were particularly grateful that some of our visitors were willing to step in and play the missing parts. Since two ensembles were indisposed, it gave us a little more time to enjoy the final item. This was the cue for the Fitzroy Quartet to set up and prepare for their performance. From the moment they started carefully tuning, it was clear to see that our musicians were listening and watching carefully.

We were immensely privileged to hear a performance of the first movement Mozart’s Prussian Quartet in Bb, first movement. We were fascinated to see and hear the quality of ensemble, the communication, the intonation and the variety of dynamics that are possible – it was hugely inspiring for us all.

Our thanks must go to the Fitzroy Quartet, to the boys for their hard work and to Mrs Pringle for planning such an enjoyable and educational afternoon. We hope to have this fine young quartet back for a concert soon.

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