24 November 2022

It was on Friday evening that the term’s much anticipated performance of Haydn’s great choral masterpiece came to fruition at the Amey Theatre. For his final choral concert at Abingdon, Director of Music, Michael Stinton, invited Headington School to join, thus creating a chorus of more than 120 voices, including pupils, parents and staff from all three schools.

The pupils had rehearsed weekly at their respective schools and came together for two evening rehearsals, one for orchestra and one for chorus and orchestra before the concert day itself, whilst the adults rehearsed separately on Wednesday evenings.

Like the chorus, the 40 strong orchestra was a joint one with each school’s top musicians coming together with the addition of a professional leader (violin teacher, Tom Crehan), a contra bassoonist (Glyn Williams) and the headmaster (Mike Windsor) on double bass.

The trio of professional soloists all had Abingdon connections. Soprano, Helen May, is the daughter of Abingdon’s former Head of History, Dr Carolyn May, baritone, Johnny Herford, an OA from 2003, whilst tenor, Dominic Lee, was recruited from the Spectra Ensemble touring opera company that is directed by Michael Stinton’s daughter, Cecilia (herself a former pupil of SHSK).

The Amey Theatre was filled to hear an ensemble of some 165 musicians in such rich musical fare as the choruses, The Heavens are Telling and Awake the Harp and the sublime final duet, Graceful Consort. Paricularly notable was the fine solo playing of a quartet of Abingdon woodwind players, Julien Rohart (flute), Oliver Glover (oboe), David Hrushovski (clarinet) and Josef O’Connor (bassoon). Also exceptional was the outstanding continuo playing of Thomas Zhang (harpsichord) and Yubo Gao (cello).

It was perhaps a fitting choice of a work that has book-ended Michael Stinton’s career at Abingdon, since The Creation was his first big choral concert at the school some 35 years earlier in November 1987.

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