11 October 2017

This year’s House Singing Competition was adjudicated by Sam Gladstone, Director of Music at Radley College and formerly Director of Music of Portsmouth Grammar School. After graduating from Cambridge, where he had been organ scholar at Jesus College, Sam spent some time teaching at both Whitgift School in Croydon and Sevenoaks School. As a young teacher he also served as Assistant Master of Music at the Chapels Royal at the Tower of London and, whilst at Portsmouth, he was Music Director of a number of productions at the King’s Theatre, Southsea. He was thus immensely well qualified to be our adjudicator this year.

This year’s competition presented a very varied programme of songs from a number of musical sources and eras and it was soon apparent that the offerings from all ten houses had been well rehearsed and were confidently presented. This year there were again many extra elements of creativity incorporated into the songs alongside the unison line, including countermelodies, harmonies, monophonic and antiphonal textures.

Our adjudicator started his adjudication by setting out the three areas of particular performance interest, these being success in communication, entertainment value and the willingness to take well-judged risks in performance. He emphasised that he was looking principally for the quality of the singing, with suitable variety to capture and hold the audience’s interest.

Whilst many of the songs were fairly recent chart hits, with the inevitably very wide vocal range that often characterise such songs, there were also some older classics by such bands as ABBA Take a Chance on Me (Franklin’s), Frankie Valli Beggin’ (Morgan’s) and Neil Diamond Sweet Caroline (Southwell-Sanders’). 

The winning entry this year came again from O’Doherty’s; Fallen by Imagine Dragons. Mr Gladstone admired the great start, the tightness of the band, the clarity of the words, the variety of dynamics and the brave ending – a calculated risk that paid off handsomely.

School House came in second with the song All Star by the unfortunately named group, Smash Mouth. Theirs had a strong energetic and engaging start, some effective legato singing and strong direction from Jeremy Salkeld. The cardboard Shrek cut-out was felt to be somewhat unnecessary, however.

Third place was given jointly to Southwell-Sander’s with Sweet Caroline and Lower School with I Just Can’t Wait to be King from The Lion King. The former house was complimented for its successful use of harmony in the introduction, a stylish trumpet countermelody, and a well-controlled performance with an excellent conductor in Henry Muller, who brought great attention to detail in sustaining notes. Lower School were congratulated for some effective choreography, a confident sound and strong piano accompaniment, even though they were in danger of over-ramping the “cute” factor with an appearance at the end of a stuffed toy Simba!

Congratulations to all the 1000 participating singers, their housemasters and their conductors! There was a great atmosphere throughout the afternoon of enjoyment, enthusiasm and healthy competition.


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