10 October 2019

During the course of today, Abingdon’s Music department hosted the renowned professional period ensemble, the Instruments of Time and Truth, for live performances of two music GCSE set works and related repertoire, together with presentations from musicologist and choral director, Jeremy Summerly.

Alongside our own pupils we were delighted to welcome students and teachers from a number of local schools, including John Mason, Larkmead, Matthew Arnold School, OLA, Radley, St Helen’s and Wychwood – in all, some 175 delegates.

We listened to some outstanding performances of the two main set works, including the finale of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No 5 and Purcell’s 1692 song, Music for a While – part of the incidental music to Dryden’s play, a re-telling of Socrates’ Oedipus.

As well as uncovering the context of these GCSE set works we learned about different ways of interpreting them with different instrumentations. These included the bass viol and the chitarrone or theorbo – an extremely long-necked lute with a wide register that became popular as a continuo instrument in Italy in the 17th Century.

The ensemble also worked with our School’s chamber orchestra on the second movement of Handel‘s Concerto Grosso Opus 6/5, which was immensely informative of Baroque performance practice. Other music included Purcell’s famous Dido’s Lament from Dido and Aeneas, Handel’s Rejoice from Messiah and later, Vivaldi’s concerto, Winter from The Four Seasons.

In the after-lunch session, the pupils and teachers were split into a huge SATB chorus to rehearse four choruses from Handel’s Messiah, including He Trusted in God and the Hallelujah Chorus. All these works were brought together in a final informal concert which interspersed the songs and instrumental works with choruses accompanied by the orchestra.

It was a wonderful day of music study and listening to performances of the very highest calibre – and all those present came away greatly informed and inspired by such top notch live performances.

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