Few schools, one imagines, would be able to put on a concert by thirteen different chamber ensembles in the last week of term, on the day of the final public examination of the year (the last Wednesday in June). A full roll of names is not possible, with over 50 performers, but it was an especial pleasure to hear some of the Cranleigh Preparatory School musicians performing on a level comparable to their elders. Of these younger performers I was especially taken with the piano duet of Nicholas Edwards and Felix von Spreckelsen, who played the Vaughan Williams ‘Greensleeves’ Fantasia with very sensitive rubato in all four hands and truly beautiful playing, contrasted pleasingly with the central (‘Lovely Joan’) tune.
Even among the Senior School performers there were Lower School musicians who played with astonishing maturity, and the summer mood was established by a mixture of VIth Formers and Lower School pupils in the sustained lyricism of Grainger’s ‘Walking Tune’ dished up for wind quintet. Nancy Newberry’s sweet soft singing of Handel was matched by the recorder playing of Catherine Beddison and no less than of six Catherine’s colleagues also performed with the pupils: Kevin Weaver, Marie Ward, Phil Scriven, Richard Saxel, Bob Wilson and Marcus Pashley. The audience fitted almost perfectly into the small, but acoustically pleasing Clive Stevens Recital Hall, though at times it became standing room only. I especially enjoyed the other piano duet: Zoë Dixon and Deescha Chandrasma played the most popular of Moszkowski’s Spanish Dances. This was a subtle and witty performance of a mostly forgotten little lollipop which was frequently heard on the BBC when I was at school. Phillippa Johnston and Ellen Talbot (clarinet and flute) played contrasting Bartok arrangements as an accompanied duo and there was some stylish Telemann from four young violinists. More Telemann came from recorder players Tim Ayling and Bethany Porter (Zoë Dixon and Phil Scriven on continuo). The blending of tone and dextrous intertwining of rapid semi-quavers was phenomenal.
Bob’s brass quintet lightened the mood with their ‘Drunken Sailor’ before the concert switched to farewell mode. The concert ended with three of Parry’s ‘Songs of Farewell’ conducted with passion by Phil Scriven and sung expertly by the 19-strong chamber choir, ‘Cranleigh Voices’:
“There is an old belief,
That on some solemn shore,
beyond the sphere of grief
Dear friends shall meet once more.”
Two dear friends also sang farewell to Cranleigh, as Mikey Linford and Terri Yoon duetted in Gershwin’s ‘Bess, you is my woman now’. It seemed acceptable to reject the composer’s wishes that this music should only be sung by African-Americans, especially as Terri joined us from another country, and the actorly operatic singing, with its special rapport between the singers seemed to embody just how many friendships have been made between those from other shores over Cranleigh’s history.
There was an earlier farewell in the concert, the last Cranleigh performance by two Helen Wareham winners, and a rare chance to hear together the excellence of Hebe Westcott’s pianism with the inspirational violin playing of Ben Rudolf, who duetted with Kevin Weaver in three of the Five Pieces for Two Violins and Piano arranged by Lev Atovmian: the sources of these are music for the film ‘The Gadfly’ (the touching Prelude); the Third Ballet Suite (the ironic gavotte) and music for the cartoon ‘The Tale of the Priest and His Servant Balda’ (the waltz with its comic canon). Hearing this trio of musicians which combined the pupil body and Common Room just one night after seeing young Master Day acting with other Common Room colleagues was a reminder of the Cranleigh community at its best. That some of the young performers were joined in the audience by their OC parents was another. Ex Cultu Robur.