After the enforced absence of ensemble playing over the past couple of years, it was a real delight to experience the Summer Concert in Speech Hall on Friday night. It showcased each of the school’s major ensembles, and was the culmination of four months’ hard work since January. Performing on stage were not only a fifth of the Senior School pupils, but some of the more advanced pupils from the Prep School, together with a number of Common Room staff.
First on was the Orchestra, which hit the ground running with a very dramatic rendition of the first movement from Mozart’s Symphony No. 25, which featured some very articulate string playing, together with some bold brass injections. This was followed by a set of fascinating ‘Variations on a Korean Folk Song’ by the American composer, John Barnes Chance. This will undoubtedly have been the first ever Cranleigh performance of the piece, which is based on a song beloved of both North and South Korea, depicting a mythical journey towards distant mountains. Its highly colourful variations were impressive and full of oriental flavour, highlighting each of the orchestral departments, with some particularly interesting oriental sounds emanating from percussion.
In complete contrast, the four members of the String Quartet then treated us to some intricate ensemble playing in the ‘Canzonetta’ from Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in E flat major, Op.12, and this was then followed by two pieces from the movies, played by the Symphonic Wind Band. Paul Dukas’ ever popular and hauntingly magical ‘The Sorceror’s Apprentice’, made famous by Leopold Stokowski in Walt Disney’s 1940 film ‘Fantasia’, provided a vehicle for yet more exotic tonal and harmonic colour, and this was followed by highlights from the equally popular soundtrack from ‘The Lion King’.
After the interval drinks, a more serious mood was struck with the String Orchestra’s performance of the ‘Variations on a theme by Tchaikovsky’ by his compatriot, Anton Arensky. The sombre Russian flavour of this piece was then transformed by the Scandinavian freshness evoked in three movements from the ‘Peer Gynt Suite’ by Edvard Grieg, performed by the Brass Ensemble. The School Choir then, in contrast to its more normal fare of Chapel music, got the audience tapping its feet to the rhythmic strains of Michael Jackson’s ‘Man in the Mirror’, replete with rhythmic syncopations and finger snapping.
The programme was brought to a highly entertaining ending with the Big Band performing its four numbers: the ‘Theme from Sesame Street’, ‘I heard it through the Grapevine’, ‘The Shadow of Your Smile’ and ‘Ghostbusters’ (with audience participation!). All in all the evening was great fun, much enjoyed by the audience of the Fourth Form and other members of the school community, and was all the more impressive considering the many competing pressures of exams and revision at this stage of the term. Many congratulations to all involved!