On Wednesday evening, there was an arresting and unexpected start to the annual Summer Concert, as the six members of the Samba Group processed in from the back of the Speech Hall, playing a very energetic and rhythmic performance of Batacuda, arranged by OC and current percussion teacher, Tom Hollister. As a complete contrast to this, the String Orchestra then treated us to a performance of the sublime Double Violin Concerto by J.S. Bach, with three talented violinists performing one movement each. They were joined by the Head of Strings, Mr. Kevin Weaver, who played the other solo part and also directed the orchestra from the front, as would have been the practice in Bach’s own day. The first movement (Charlie M.) was taken at a brisk and lively pace, with some light and energetic passagework played by both soloists and orchestra. There was some very expressive playing in the ravishingly beautiful second movement (Anna C.), while the final Allegro movement (Oscar G.) was delivered with great virtuosity.
Next on stage was the Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Dr. Thomas, with a set of pieces themed around the French Revolution. March to the Scaffold from the famous Symphonie Fantastique by Hector Berlioz is a wonderfully imaginative musical depiction of someone’s head succumbing to the guillotine, and this was followed by a medley from a more contemporary and popular evocation of the Revolution, Les Miserables by Schoenberg. However, the highlight for me was the final piece of the first half, which was the world premiere of a composition entitled Finding the Blair Witch, composed by A-Level music student Elliot E., and conducted by the composer. The piece forms part of Elliot’s EPQ project exploring the influence of music on film, and was written to accompany a part of the film The Blair Witch Project which wasn’t previously given any musical background.
For the first time in a concert like this, the audience were not just treated to interval drinks in the dining hall, but were also serenaded by the four members of the Cello Ensemble and the String Quartet.
At the start of the second half, the Symphonic Wind Orchestra explored the darker, gothic side of film music in At the Movies by Danny Elfman, and were then followed by the Brass Ensemble, who both looked and sounded resplendent in their two offerings, I’m Getting Married in the Morning and On the Sunny Side of the Street, with all the performers standing in a semicircle and projecting their sound right to the back of the hall.
It has become tradition in recent years for the Big Band to round these concerts off with a number of high-octane pieces, and they certainly didn’t disappoint on this occasion! Their energetic performance of Soul Bossa Nova by Quincy Jones provided some wonderful solo opportunities for members of the band, particularly Patrick A. and Rafe B., as did their colourful rendition of The Pink Panther. However they saved the best for last, and their performance of Uptown Funk really brought the house down.
Many congratulations to all those involved in a really great concert, especially at such a busy time of year with exam season!