Helen Wareham 50th Anniversary Competition

This year’s Helen Wareham Recital Competition, on Wednesday 22nd November 2023, marked the half-century of the event founded by Bursar Captain Dennis…

This year’s Helen Wareham Recital Competition, on Wednesday 22nd November 2023, marked the half-century of the event founded by Bursar Captain Dennis Wareham in honour of his wife, Helen.

The recital competition has always showcased Cranleigh music at its best, offering players of Grade 8 standard and above the opportunity to compete against one another. This year, the eight competitors represented a wide cross-section of year groups and disciplines: pianist Richard E., cellists Leah S. and Anise R., vocalist Mia P., violinists Charlie M. and Oscar G., saxophonist Sasha A. and bass trombonist Patrick A. The evening took place in Speech Hall, beautifully lit by Peter Humphreys and his team, to accommodate an audience enlarged by five decades of staff and student alumni, many of whom had been directly involved with school music and the competition over the years. This imbued the evening with a wonderfully warm, supportive and nostalgic atmosphere.

We were privileged to welcome Professor Michael Dussek, FRAM, to adjudicate the competition. Michael is currently the Geoffrey Parsons Professor of Ensemble Piano at the Royal Academy of Music, having previously held the position of Head of Piano Accompanying. He has enjoyed a successful international career as a chamber musician, soloist and song collaborator, but (above all) lays claim to the accolade of having taught our esteemed Director of Music, Richard Saxel!

The quality of music-making, communication and technical accomplishment was impressively high, and the programming was well-considered, with a particular focus this year on celebrating some great music by often under-represented female composers (Cécile Chaminade, Amy Beach, Madeleine Dring, Pauline Viardot, Emma Arandjelovic, Catherine McMichael, Barbara York, Rebecca Clark and Lili Boulanger), alongside canonical works. Aside from the nerve-wracking prospect of performing to numerous past winners, (some now professional musicians in their own right), the performers also had to contend with an unplanned fire alarm, yet none of this fazed our young musicians.

Needless to say, it was a difficult and unenviable task for our adjudicator to have to select a winner from eight very impressive recitalists. Congratulations are due to Richard E. for winning this year’s title; his rendering of Chaminade’s Automne showed particular sensitivity in its array of subtle tone colours. Thanks to all the teachers involved in the preparation of the competitors, and especially to Director of Music, Mr Richard Saxel for rehearsing and accompanying the competitors. The expanded format of the event also necessitated considerable contributions from Belinda Graham-Rack, Mandy Russell-Price, Jody Cooksley, Jo Jessop, and many others, so thank you to all involved in this very memorable musical evening.

Mr Kevin Weaver, Head of Strings and Academic Music

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