The first concert by our Music Award holders was an outstanding evening, and highlighted the breadth of talent across all year groups. The evening began with a performance by the String Quartet; four Sixth Form boys performing a movement of Joseph Bologne’s String Quartet no.3 with notable finesse and style. Bologne’s story is an interesting one; a mixed-race contemporary of Mozart, and an accomplished musician, swordsman and confidante of Marie-Antoinette, history has somewhat forgotten him. The recent Hollywood biopic Chevalier attempts to redress this balance, and we had screened it to students the previous evening, so it was particularly good to hear his music performed live as part of our offering for Black History Month.
The first half of the concert then featured some of our lower school performers. Ava S.’s spirited performance of W.H.Squire’s Tarantella was full of rhythmic vitality and subtle tonal control, and Alexis H.’s Summer showcased her lovely plangent tone and naturally musical phrase shaping. William H.’s promising tenor voice was apparent in his rich rendition of a song by Roger Quilter, and Brannon W. delivered a stylish and original version of Charlie Parker’s Billie’s Bounce, with some well-controlled and imaginative improvisation.
The second half was a platform for some of our outstanding Lower Sixth Form, who are maturing into exceptional musicians. Maisy B.’s characterisation of If I Loved You was compelling, and underpinned her excellent vocal control. The clarity and depth of her lovely vocal tone and understanding of text is notable; something that she shares with Mia P. whose pinpoint accuracy in Vaughan Williams’s beautiful Silent Noon allowed for the composer’s word-painting to shine through. Patrick A. and Rafe B. are two stalwarts of the Brass Ensembles, and appeared here as contrasting soloists. Patrick’s bass trombone performance of the first movement of the McCarty Sonata was an intelligent and musical reading, full of subtlety and a notable sense of interplay with the piano. His tone was varied and imaginative, and he knew when to accompany and when to lead. Rafe’s exciting rendition of Tico Tico allowed him to display the full range of dynamics and tonal contrast, and his high notes were exceptional; a searing clarity and perfect tuning at the top end of the instrument. Richard E. gave a commanding and insightful interpretation of the last movement of Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata; technical control and musical imagination were perfectly balanced here, and the introspective desperation of Beethoven’s world much in evidence. Sasha A. gave a superbly accurate account of Funky Joe, in which several contrasting jazz styles are mixed, making high demands of the performer. Her tonal control, and understanding of the jazz idiom allowed for the filigree lines to be completely convincing, and the subtle nuance of jazz accents to shine through. Brandon G.’s robust and virtuosic electric guitar playing showcased his considerable technical expertise, and a natural affinity for the instrument, before Elliot E. quite literally nearly blew the roof off with his drum kit rendition of an Iron Maiden song. If the volume control had been set to 11, the accuracy of his stick-work was also apparent, and his musicianship shone through.
A marvellous start to the year, and an exceptional concert which has set a high bar for others to follow.
Richard Saxel, Director of Music