The Merriman Orchestra gave their first performance in two years on Friday the 15th October, presenting a programme that included a World Première, a concerto performed by one of our most talented Old Cranleighan’s , and one of the greatest symphonies ever written.

Their conductor, Dr Andrew Thomas (Head of Vocal Studies and Choral Music), is also a well-respected composer, and his Moto Perpetuo and Chorale was a playful commentary on musical spellings of the words ‘Cranleigh Music’, and the staff who work therein! Andrew’s originality shone through, particularly in his handling of the detailed nuance of orchestral texture, and also in the rhythmic vitality and excitement that infused the first part of the piece. The Chorale was a magical, glittering affair with extended techniques from woodwind, strings and percussion creating an alluring and shimmering sound-world that showed a gifted composer in full control of his orchestral forces.

Reuben Anelay (OC, 2021) returned to perform Arutunian’s beguiling Trumpet Concerto. His tone was pure and beautiful across the full range of the instrument, and his playing was lyrical, rhythmic, playful and in the muted section enthrallingly and icily remote. Reuben’s vision of the piece was presented with clarity and full understanding of the Armenian folk tradition from which it originated, and was supported by orchestral accompaniment of the highest standard. He was able to treat the work almost as chamber music, and both respond to and lead the orchestra and conductor where required which showed a young soloist in complete command. The warm reception was fully deserved.

The concert concluded with Beethoven’s epic Third Symphony, the Eroica. One of the greatest of all symphonies, it is an ambitious choice for any orchestra, and tests even those who rehearse on a daily basis. For a scratch orchestra to give such an accomplished performance requires concentration, a conductor in full control and a unanimous desire to listen, respond and communicate. Under their leader Kevin Weaver, the orchestra proved well up to the task, and if the tempi were perhaps a little on the cautious side at times, the overall effect of this symphonic tour de force was clearly communicated and enjoyed by an appreciative audience who had been starved of these cultural treats for the past couple of years. A hugely enjoyable concert that proved that high culture is central to the school’s musical ambitions. The fact that several pupils were able to take part in the rehearsal by playing in the orchestra, and to experience what it is like to rehearse at a professional level only added to the value that these events bring…ex cultu robur.