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Last Friday a packed audience in the Speech Hall enjoyed the annual celebration of the endeavours of Cranleigh Music department’s major ensembles during the Michaelmas term. The concert featured a healthy mix of festive favourites and celebratory repertoire in such a broad range of style and instrumental/vocal combination that each ensemble was able to inhabit their own space in the concert and showcase the talents of their student performers.

The concert began in plaintive fashion as the orchestra and its choir of four, yes four, French horns (under the direction of head of music Marcus Pashley) explored the emotional and expressive intricacies of the overture to Engelbert Humperdinck’s opera Hansel and Gretel creating a wonderfully balanced musical sound and shaping to the score. The first half continued with the wind quintet’s Christmas Jazz Suite and Concert Band’s rendition of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, before the string ensemble gave a wonderfully stylised performance of Corelli’s Christmas Concerto. Mr Pashley brought the half to an end asking why film composers are still so often using the rich palette of the symphony orchestra in scores such as Pirates of the Caribbean (surely because they arrrr!) before producing a spirited performance that was well received by an audience keen for their interval mince pies and mulled wine.

The first group back to the stage after the interval were the Symphonic Wind Band who, rather surprisingly, began Robert E. Foster’s Emmanuel Variants by enthusiastically singing the refrain from the well-known hymn (much to the relief of their conductor). The challenging score was then dispatched with an excellent sound and rhythmic precision. Of particular note (and highlighting the departmental staff’s broad skills) were the drum solos and glockenspiel playing in A Christmas Festival’s ‘silent night’ by Kevin Weaver (Head of Strings). The audience were then treated to the girls and boys choirs performing, respectively, the Beatle’s Blackbird and Billy Joel’s The Longest Hour before the Big Band finished off the evening with a lively mixture of festive favourites and big band hits with standout solos from Dan Evans (baritone sax), Reuben Gray (tenor sax) and Harry Simmonds (keyboard).

A concert like this brings home the contribution that both staff and students make to such an active music department as well as the standard that can be achieved through collective effort.

Andrew Thomas
Acting Head of Woodwind