13 December 2021

There are few things more magical than coming together as a community to celebrate Christmas through singing and music. This statement certainly rang true on Tuesday evening when we gathered in St Helen’s Church, Abingdon for our Years 5-8 Carol Service to celebrate the festive season through song. This was my first Carol Service in St Helen’s since arriving at Abingdon Prep as Director of Music in January 2020, and I confess I didn’t quite know what to expect. Will the church’s acoustics be good? Will the children, some of whom have not performed in front of an audience for two years, be as good on the night as they were in rehearsal? Will the audience be able to join in with the singing when wearing masks? Will the whole thing have to be cancelled due to the pandemic like so much else over the past 20 months?!

I am so thankful to be able to write that all these concerns were allayed entirely with the opening moments of “Once in Royal David’s City” sung by a duet of our Year 8 boys, whose swathing voices soared beyond hearing and comprehension, and touched the very soul. Thus followed an evening of superlative performances from our Year 5&6 Choir, our Year 7&8 Choir, and our Senior Choir, interspersed with beautiful solo pieces and articulate readings from our pupils.

Masks notwithstanding, the audience joined in with gusto during our congregational carols, finishing with a glorious descant in “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The fact that the Prep family could meet together in this way was itself a triumph of logistics and covid-safety measures but, given everything over the past few years, the fact that the children could rise to this occasion so well, and give that indescribable feeling of hope and internal warmth that only communal singing can provide, has made me feel so proud to be a part of a school that is clearly very special.

The children should also be so proud of themselves for such a performance, and music has never felt more alive to me at the Prep than it did at our Carol Service this week. The children are a credit to their parents and the school and, in a world where we are increasingly being forced apart, our community feels closer and stronger than ever. I wish everyone a wonderful and safe Christmas, and I look forward to welcoming you to our musical events in the future.

Sean Fitzpatrick
Director of Music

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