On Friday evening, the Christmas concert took place in the Speech Hall, and featured all of the school’s major ensembles, which have been preparing their performances throughout the term. The concert was attended by the whole of the Lower Fifth form, as well as many parents, friends and supporters.
The programme opened in grand style with collection of the best moments from the soundtrack of the Hollywood blockbuster, “Gladiator”, composed by one of the most influential film composers of all time, Hans Zimmer. The Symphony Orchestra was led by Oscar G., and conducted by Maximus Decius Meridius (a.k.a. Dr Thomas!). After a rather sinister introduction, the music opened out into the celebrated and majestic main theme (with some particularly fine playing from the brass and percussion sections), and eventually ended with a war march reminiscent of Gustav Holst’s “Mars” (the God of War) from “The Planets”. It wouldn’t be a Christmas concert without a cheesy Christmas medley, and Holst formed a connection with the next item, “A Holst Christmas”. Starting and ending with his popular carol “In the bleak midwinter” (considered by many to be the best Christmas carol of them all!), and featuring a number of other equally well known festive favourites, there was some beautiful playing by the woodwind section.
This was followed by a complete change of mood and texture as the four members of the String Quartet (Anna C., Charlie M., Len W., Patrick A.) performed the Allegro from Mozart’s Divertimento in D major. This piece was written exactly 250 years ago, when the composer was just 16 years old (the same age as tonight’s performers!), and contains some lively and intricate chamber music, with plenty of virtuosic writing for the two violins. Mr Eaglestone and the Symphonic Wind Band then relaxed the mood with a medley from the musical “Chicago”, with all of its sassy jazz rhythms and harmonies, and replete with the conductor’s flying baton! This was followed by Prokofiev’s perennial Christmas favourite “Troika”, from his suite “Lieutenant Kijé”, which depicts a fast winter’s journey on the troika, a traditional Russian three-horse sled. Sleigh bells, a large percussion section, and a particularly fine trombone section were highlights.
After the interval, the String Orchestra performed a group of four individual pieces, each by Scandinavian composers and collected together by Mr Weaver under the title “Nordic Suite”. Of particular note was the atmospheric “Folk Tune” of Danish composer Carl Nielsen, and the delightful “Humorous Song” of Norway’s most famous composer, Edward Grieg. The Brass Ensemble has had a very busy term, performing in Chapel both in the Remembrance Day Service, and soon to be adorning the three Christmas Carol Services. But tonight the players were in a more relaxed mood, playing two movements from Christopher Norton’s “Jazz Quartet”, together with an arrangement of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”. As is often the case, it then fell to the Big Band to round the concert off, and it did so with panache. The “Swingin’ Shepherd Blues”, the timeless old chestnut “Misty”, and “Sing, Sing, Sing” were each performed with great energy and style, and featured some really excellent solos from various members of the band. The audience’s enthusiastic applause was very well deserved.
After what has been a particularly long term, with everyone feeling fairly exhausted and with quite a few pupils off ill, these musicians are to be both congratulated and thanked for their very hard work and effort, and for providing an evening of such entertaining music-making.