On Friday 4th February we saw the long-awaited return of the Jack Cook Strings Competition, an event which we have been unable to present to a live audience since before the start of the pandemic. This was a truly edifying experience for all concerned. 

Performing in public is a fundamental aspect of any developing musician’s experience. Nerves and adrenaline give heightened awareness, allowing the performer to embrace the illuminating standpoint and undivided focus of the listening audience. After two years of playing within the restrictive confines of small practice rooms, and over internet video calls, the sudden need to project sound and communicate emotion seemed like a daunting challenge.

Yet, our young string players rose to the occasion admirably. They offered a lovely, varied programme showcasing the amazing expressive scope of the violin family of instruments, and indeed the individual personalities of all of the performers. This ranged from jazz-infused rhythms to beautiful lyrical melodies and virtuosic pyrotechnics.

It was a tough task to pick out individual winners in each category, and weigh up the relative merits of very different but equally compelling performances. The Junior Prize was awarded to Charlie M., for his rendition of Accolay’s Violin Concerto in A minor, a technical tour de force, which he delivered with real conviction. Another notable highlight of the Junior Section was Anna C.’s performance of Sibelius’ Romance, delivered with mature technical control and a sensitive palette of tone colours.

In the Senior Section, Simon C. was awarded first prize for his reading of Fauré’s Élégie. His bold risks with dynamics and tone enabled him to do justice to both the bleak opening theme and the tempestuous central section.

Congratulations to all the performers who contributed to this wonderful evening of string music, to their accompanists, Mr Richard Saxel and Mr Phil Scriven, fellow adjudicator Miss Mahaliah Edwards, and to the visiting string teachers for their excellent tuition and preparation of the students.