10 October 2018

This year’s House Singing Competition was adjudicated by Dr Tom Edwards, who has, since January 2016, been serving as Director of Music at Rendcomb College, succeeding Dominic Franks OA, who has moved to a similar position at Bristol Grammar School. He is an experienced teacher who has taught music at the Rudolf Steiner School in Edinburgh and at Lucton School in Hertfordshire.

After graduating from the Guildhall School of Music Dr Edwards moved to Edinburgh University where he did his PhD on Aesthetics and 18C Performance Practice. Alongside his teaching post at Rendcomb he is also Director of Music at St Barnabas Church in Oxford.

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 explaining that he had decided to base his judgements entirely along the lines of his gut instinct, rather than scoring the entries according to traditional principles of good singing practice.

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 The Foundations Build me up Buttercup (O’Doherty’s), Mamas and Papas California Dreamin’ (Pygott’s) and John Denver Country Roads (James’s), all of which were great choices and beautifully delivered.

The winning entry this year came again from School House with The Greatest Showman. Dr Edwards admired the professionalism and commitment of all the performers, the quality of the accompaniment, the clarity of the words, the use of part-singing and the contrast of the different sections that together contributed to a very convincing performance.

Pygott’s House came in second with California Dreamin’, a good choice that had a strong melody line and the opportunity for effective antiphonal textures with the backing group right from the start. He enjoyed the use of harmony in the middle section and the excellent instrumental backing.

Third place was given to Crescent House this year with Mr Blue Sky by The Electric Light Orchestra – much to their evident delight, judging from the roar from the audience. He thought this was a confident performance with good use of part-singing and some effective dynamic contrast.

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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