Unfortunately, the recent Covid restrictions caused by the Omicron variant meant that this year’s Christmas Concert in the Speech Hall had to be live-streamed for the wider school community to enjoy online, rather than in person. But this in no way hindered what was a most enjoyable and varied evening of live music-making by the school’s larger musical ensembles.
The concert opened with two pieces of film music performed by the Symphonic Wind Band. The first (entitled “Best of Bond”) was a medley of some of the best-loved Bond theme tunes, including “From Russia with Love”, “Goldfinger” and “Thunderball”. The players were neither shaken nor stirred, and performed the suite with a great sense of style and panache. For their second number, they played the march from the classic Second World War film “The Dambusters” by Eric Coates, often sung in Chapel to the words of the much beloved hymn “God is our strength and refuge”.
In complete contrast with the other large ensembles in the programme, we were then treated to some intricate chamber music in a String Quartet by Haydn. The virtuosic and expressive playing by a string quartet consisting of Anna C., Charlie M., Len W. and Patrick A. was impressive.
The Orchestra then played the “Bacchanale” by the French composer, Camille Saint-Saens, a piece full of Eastern mysticism and harmony. This was expertly performed, with strong rhythmic grasp, great intensity and exciting dynamic contrasts. Perhaps more fitting for this seasonal time of year, this was followed by the ever-popular “Sleigh Ride” by the American composer, Leroy Anderson.
The String Orchestra then treated us to the earthy, folksy, and sometimes hauntingly beautiful “Six Romanian Folk Dances” by the Hungarian composer, Bela Bartok – music which is full of complex rhythms, tricky ornaments and a wide variety of emotions.
For the “Intrada” by Frank, the Brass Ensemble was divided into two separate groups on either side of the stage, and the music bounced back and forth in antiphonal conversation between them.
Finally, to round the programme off in great style, the Big Band performed four jazz numbers (Blues Brothers’ Revue, “Woodchoppers Ball”, “White Christmas” and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”), featuring various instrumental soloists from within its ranks. This was both impressive and enjoyable, and a fitting conclusion to a great Christmas Concert.
Well done, everyone!