Remembrance at Bedales

Musing on ceremony and the power of thoughtful, communal events: here is a school where there is no chapel and no tradition of formality, which manages to conjure an event like last night’s Remembrance Jaw. Shaped so thoughtfully by Director of Music, Nick Gleed and Clare Jarmy (who is i/c Jaw), it was a brilliant combination of the stock, traditional elements – the Last Post and a verse from I vow to thee..  – complemented by contrasting elements, such as a reading of a WW1 diary, accompanied by the playing (by our young organist, Calum A) of Le Jardin Suspendu by Jehan Alain, composed just before he was killed fighting for the French Resistance. Sassoon’s Base Details provided some caustic grit. The mood for handshaking, conducted initially in complete, self-imposed silence, was set by a magnificent rendition of Elgar’s Nimrod. For me, it’s several notches higher in emotional power than the many Remembrance events I have been to in much more formal settings. Why? I suspect it has much to do with the sense amongst the students that they are making it happen – something to do with collective will; much to do with music and the feeling that each of these events is shaped by people for whom catching the emotional tenor of an occasion is more important than the adherence to any particular pre-ordained shape.

By Keith Budge, Headmaster, Bedales Schools