Beethoven in the mix

cellists

“Never dull”, that handy police recruiting slogan of yesteryear, is a good adage for life here; never entirely predictable and often student-generated would be a fair addition, given this week’s variety of cultural offerings. With the Cecilia Concert as the week’s kingpin, high culture with necessary teacher direction is in the ascendant for sure, with Beethoven, Nick Gleed and the First Orchestra to the fore – The Pastoral (5th movement of Symphony No 6) was performed with confidence, following on from Keir Rowe’s Concert Band’s colourful rendition of Jacob’s Suite in B-flat; for me, both bring with them the customary surprise (which I still find surprising although I should have become used to it by now): that large groups of young people can bring such shape, beauty and delight from dots on a page. Here comes the additional, uncustomary surprise: the next piece is 8 cellists – yes, The Cello Ensemble, a new thing, a semi-circle of cellists with Assistant Director of Music (and, yes, cellist) Will Lithgow in its half-moon midst – and they are playing Beethoven’s Funeral March (2nd movement of Symphony No 7) without any external direction. Watching and listening I have a sense of music emerging from this profusion of cellists that have congregated and that work so cohesively, without apparent external mastery.

The cultural contrast with how the week begun and how it will end are instructive: Monday’s assembly brought a student-led rendition of that great British eccentricity Just a Minute, with combined student and staff teams. Its leader, Alex Y was suitably enough, singing a Purcell song on Wednesday. In what cultural corner does Just a Minute sit? Higher than you think might be the verdict after seeing some famously fluent people struggle. Maybe they were intimidated by the fluency and beauty of Min Y’s playing of Beethoven’s Pathetique which preceded it, or by the fact that OB Gyles Brandreth is arguably its most brilliant exponent.

So, plenty of surprises and variety so far and plenty that challenges the cultural span. What is sure and has elements of predictability is that the week will definitely end with something that is both student generated and not high culture – a whole school dance with a disco theme.


Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.