9 December 2019

Our well-attended Christmas concerts on the Wednesday and Friday of the penultimate week of term reverted to an earlier plan which gave the boys a welcome day’s break between the two performances. This year there were no less than ten separate items presented by the School’s choirs, bands and orchestras, giving them a showcase to share and celebrate their dedicated work this term.

Under the direction of Adam Treadaway, the first three performances were choral, comprising the First Year Choir, the Joint Chamber Choir and the Abingdon Academicals’ close harmony ensemble. The new boys delighted the audience with some impressively focused and courageous singing in two parts – the ancient and traditional Gaudete of 1582 and an arrangement of Little Drummer Boy, cleverly combined with Peace on Earth. Both Joint Chamber Choir and the Academicals directed themselves in performances of skill and poise, first Santa Baby and then the Beach Boys’ Barbara Anne and Simon and Garfunkel’s Cecilia.

Chamber Orchestra and Big Band preceded the interval. Mariette Pringle, our Head of Strings, chose Adam Carse’s Winton Suite which gave great opportunities for both orchestral and solo playing from Alvin Tam (violin), Nick Raptakis (viola) and Joe Bradley (cello). The Big Band was in great form with three numbers, Sing, Sing, Sing, The Chicken and Hefti’s Kid from Red Bank, the latter offering a great solo opportunity for pianist Dave Bicarregui to show his piano skills, Count Basie style – though many other band members also stepped forward to improvise.

During the interval we were entertained by an impressive impromptu sax ensemble and straight after the interval we heard Gospel Choir, now twenty plus in number and directed by Jason Preece, in Go Tell it on the Mountain and Lovely Day, as ever with the exuberant sense of enjoyment that characterises this popular vocal ensemble.

Our bands came next – first the Symphonic Winds in Holst’s March from the 2nd Suite followed by Mr Blue Sky, clearly a favourite with the boys. Brass Band followed with some polished playing, their ensemble tightly together in Bidgood’s classic march, Sons of the Brave.

The final slots in the concert were occupied by the orchestras. First, Alexander Glover took the solo violin part in Bruch’s G minor Violin Concerto, slow movement, which he played with musical sensitivity and a lovely singing sound, ably accompanied by the First Orchestra. With Alex now returned to his other role as principal clarinettist, the full orchestra was able to show its mettle in Sibelius’ nationalistically charged Finlandia, the brass capturing the dramatic and sombre opening chorale and the strings and woodwind each answering in their turn finally bringing the music to its tumultuous climax.

Second Orchestra had the privilege of ending this year’s concerts, not only because, as we heard, they are operating at a uniquely high level at the moment, but also so that we could enjoy some festive music at the end. They started with the rousing start of Bizet’s March from Carmen followed by Kander and Ebb’s New York, New York and finally Leroy Anderson’s classic, Sleigh Ride, complete with trumpets neighing, bells jingling and a whip driving the horses on, the latter eliciting a welcome encore on both nights

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