9 October 2019
This year’s House Singing Competition was adjudicated by Joseph Hughes, since 2014, the Director of Music at Cokethorpe School. Joe is an experienced musician – a composer and teacher who was appointed to a previous post at Eastbourne College by the then headmaster, former Abingdon Crescent housemaster, Simon Davies.
Joe Hughes studied composition at The Royal Conservatoire in The Hague and his compositions have been performed internationally at venues such as The Queen Elizabeth Hall on London’s South Bank. A commission for the Haarlem International Organ Festival received a performance on Dutch National Radio.
Abingdon’s houses made some particularly ambitious choices of repertoire this year with no less than three songs by Queen alongside favourites from earlier decades, such as the 1970s’ Down Under by Men at Work, Coldplay’s Viva la Vida and Take That’s Shine. As in previous years, the arrangements were enlivened by extra elements of creativity incorporated into the songs alongside the unison line, including solos, countermelodies, harmonies, monophonic and antiphonal textures and some well-crafted instrumental backings.
Our adjudicator gave some well-judged, thoughtful comments on each of the performances, always constructive and supportive, sometimes offering advice and points for future development. He was particularly impressed by the bravery of the directors, soloists and instrumentalists who had stepped up to show leadership in the rehearsal process.
The winning entry this year came from Lower School with A Million Dreams from The Greatest Showman. Mr Hughes admired the commitment of all the performers, the quality of Arthur Robertson’s direction, the building of dynamics, the use of part-singing and the brave and arresting opening and conclusion from vocal soloists, Rupert Mathieson and Sean Hanlon, which contributed to a very convincing and, at times, spine-tingling performance.
O’Doherty’s House came in second with Rick Astley’s Never Gonna’ Give You Up, a good choice of song that was clearly well rehearsed and was rhythmically together. He enjoyed the unaccompanied section which built up to a very secure, powerful and effective ending.
Third place was given to School House this year with a rousing performance of Coldplay’s Viva la Vida. This performance had been meticulously rehearsed and had some very confident, and well-balanced part-singing as well as excellent playing from the string backing players. Performing first in the programme, School House certainly set an extremely high standard for the competition.
Congratulations to all the 1000 participating singers, their housemasters and their conductors – and thanks to our excellent adjudicator this year. There was a wonderful atmosphere throughout the afternoon of energy, enjoyment, enthusiasm and healthy competition.