Twelve of the top Sixth Form musicians competed for the coveted Speech Day performance prizes in the Grand Final of the Helen Wareham Competition.

As adjudicator we were delighted to welcome Anthony Williams, Head of Instrumental Music at Radley College and a highly experienced examiner and teacher. Mr Williams was generous with the wisdom and useful practical advice contained in his verbal and written comments to every competitor. It was also good to hear, alongside much praise, some constructive criticism that is essential for performers at this advanced level. 

In the Woodwind section, Bea Pakenham Walsh (oboe) showed great dexterity in Haydn’s perky Rondo and Tom Hills (clarinet) was praised for his musicality and haunting evocation in Ravel’s Piece en forme d’Habanera. The winner, however, was George Chilcott (saxophone) who gave a dazzling display of technique in a movement from John Williams’ Escapades.

For the vocal section Imogen Shepherd was poised and assured in an aria from Bach’s St Matthew Passion and we once again heard Bea Pakenham Walsh in a pure-toned and coquettish Mozart Aria from Don Giovanni. Frankie D’Agata’s beautiful communication and growing confidence in Saint-Saens’ Mon Coeur s’ouvre a ta voix was particularly praised by the adjudicator and won the prize.

As a concert pianist himself, Mr Williams gave particularly detailed and useful feedback to the three very accomplished pianists. He praised both the poised and elegant musical playing of George Chilcott in Parry’s Elizabeth and the agility, fireworks and sheer number of notes in Millie Mazzone’s Rondo Capriccioso by Mendelssohn. However, the prize went to Lina Mazzone for the accomplished, rhapsodic and seemingly effortless musicality in Chopin’s Op.57 Berceuse.

For the Brass section, Georgia Murphy (trumpet) gave a punchy and rhythmically tight account of Bozza’s Badinage. George Gosling (trumpet), who should be commended on hot-footing it back from competing as a swimmer in the Bath Cup just in time to give a well-expressed and firmly rooted My Love is a Red, Red, Rose. The prize went to James Thornton-Wood for some commanding and exciting Strauss playing in the first movement of Horn Concerto No.1.

The Strings section featured three violinists who had made it through to the final. Elwyn Rowlands showed real physicality and panache in an exciting Danse macabre and Daisy Roberts gave an atmospheric account of John William’s haunting Theme from Schindler’s List. The winner was Millie Mazzone for some of the most beautiful instrumental sounds of the evening in a heartfelt performance of the exquisite second movement from Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto.

As ever, huge thanks are due to the teachers of all these highly talented individuals and to their accompanist Mr Richard Saxel, who had spent many hours with the performers individually in support of their achievements.

The adjudicator described this as a truly fabulous evening and commented on the terrific atmosphere of the occasion and the excellent support from pupils, staff and parents.