28 April 2017
We have never before attempted a major school concert within four days of returning from the Easter break – and it was a somewhat high-risk strategy caused by the late Easter, the Bank holiday and the departure for 5th Years on Study Leave. The only casualties were those boys (and their families) who were unaware of the concert and had made other arrangements! Generally, however, our fears were not realised and the boys presented some outstanding performances.
Teacher, Valerie Findlay’s cello ensemble started the show with Klengel’s beautiful Hymnus for 13 cellos. The boys played as chamber musicians, without a conductor, and it was a spectacle to see the massed cellos in a great horseshoe, with the players, watching and listening so intently to each other as they counted their entries in producing such wonderfully rich sonorities.
Mariette Pringle’s Chamber Orchestra was also in great form in presenting Vivaldi’s Winter from the Four Seasons, with leading violinist, Kenneth Au Yeung as our excellent soloist. Dag Wiren’s Serenade was a good complement, with its distinctive dactylic rhythms for the whole orchestra.
Second Orchestra has been working hard since January and their playing gave two upper sixth musicians a chance to wield the baton, first Edmund Breen in Prosper Morand’s Trepak and Jamie Farrow in themes from Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana. We finished with the medley Rain featuring songs from the 60s and 70s – I’m Singin’ in the Rain, Come Rain or Shine and Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on my Head.
First Orchestra, fresh from their tour to Germany started their set with Grieg’s famous Piano Concerto in A minor, with Alexander Reynolds, our soloist. He did a great job and wowed the enthusiastic audience with his virtuosity and strength of sound. There was some lovely playing, too, from the orchestra, a tight ensemble, some velvety trombone passages, striking trumpet fanfares, sonorous cellos and expressive woodwind solos. The audience then heard the expressive Nimrod from Elgar’s Enigma Variations, followed by the film title track to the 1950s The Big Country, both of which featured on our recent concert tour.
After the interval, it was time for the Brass Band to show the outstanding work they have been doing recently. Although bereft of our three principal tubas on this occasion, Simon Currie nobly stepped in to substitute some sterling work on baritone saxophone. A stirring march, Sons of the Brave, demonstrated their fine discipline, whilst the soundtrack to Goldfinger provided a relaxed complement.
Symphonic Wind Band suffered most from the absence of our tubists; nevertheless Holst’s First Suite for Military Band gave our young players a terrific workout and an involuntary round of applause after the opening Chaconne.
This reception was only surpassed by the return of the conductor, Andy Townsend, for the Big Band set, thanks to the tryst hatched by Big Band Leader, Simon Currie. Andy returned to tumultuous applause from the carefully prepared audience!
As ever, the Big Band numbers were characterised by their sense of fun and enjoyment, first a Latin-American number, Oye Como Var, then Manciini’s Peter Gunn and, finally Cold Duck Time, the boys taking it in turns to produce their own improvisations, one particularly and unexpectedly exuberant one delivered by electric guitarist, Jake de Jongh, which brought our concert to a happy and successful conclusion.