15 March 2023

Coming a full two weeks before the same event of the previous year, the Spring Concert presented our musicians with a relatively early challenge to show what they have achieved in their weekly rehearsals since January.

The concert opened with the entire Second Year singing Alexander Hamilton from the recent Broadway and West End hit show. This was an inspired choice by their teacher, Mr Alex Fox, and the choir sang with real enthusiasm and enjoyment under his direction. Gospel Choir were on next, with Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now with a staff band including Messrs Barnes, Windsor, Owen and Preece. As always, the sense of enjoyment came across greatly from the choir. Abingdon Academicals closed the choral part of the concert with close harmony – When Pa was a Little Boy Like Me and My Evaline. These were confident and effective performances with some quirky choreography and the suitable props of hat and cane for the enactment of Old Pa by tenor, Rudolph Flossmann.

The bands rounded off the first half of the concert. Concert Band started with Instant Concert, a humorous (if somewhat corny) medley of well-known tunes in quick duple time. The next piece, Devil’s Gallop, by Charles Williams, was slick and rhythmically played, the band showing their collective technical skill in this fast moto perpetuo. With bandmaster, Mr Townsend and Big Band Leader, Mr Currie, both indisposed, it fell to Messrs Stinton and Fox who stepped up to Concert and Big Band respectively. Repertoire for the Big Band included Gonna Fly Now from the film, Rocky, The Chicken by Pee Wee Ellis and Stevie Wonder’s Don’t You Worry ‘bout a Thing. The band were in great form with some sophisticated improvised solos delivered by several players, notably by Josef O’Connor on tenor sax.

The second half belonged to the orchestras – first, Chamber Orchestra, with Klughardt’s beautiful Concertino for Oboe with soloist, Oliver Glover. It was wonderful to hear Oliver playing with his customary lovely tone and great control. The Swedish composer Dag Wiren’s distinctively chirpy Marcia from his String Serenade was an uplifting finish to the orchestra’s set. The Second Orchestra tackled some challenging repertoire with three contrasting pieces: Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet, Gounod’s Melodies from Faust, and the catchy song, Theme from New York, New York! Ably led by violinist, Ryan Ng, the orchestra responded with great flair to the very different styles of playing that these pieces required.

Our First Orchestra chose to air two of the works destined for the summer tour to France and Belgium. The finale from Saint-Saëns’s Organ Symphony is well known as providing the theme for the 1990’s film Babe and the finale starts with a great organ chord delivered by Lower Sixth organist, Philip Kimber. Responding to the energetic start, the orchestra played with conviction and panache right through to the emphatic final chords. The concert concluded with Danzon No 2 by the Mexican composer, Arturo Marquez (b 1950). Full of attractive Latin American rhythms (notably the 3-2 son clave rhythm), and some beautifully delivered solos, this catchy piece sent the audience dancing into the cold night air.

Congratulations to all involved for a great concert, especially to violinist, Oliver Smith, who led both the Chamber Orchestra and the First Orchestra with great distinction.

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