Choral collaboration at Somerville College Oxford

By Doug McIlwraith, Director of Music

Last Saturday 23 singers from the chamber choir joined the choir of Somerville College Oxford to sing choral contemplation. Somerville College is a little different from other Oxbridge colleges as although they have a chapel, they are non-denominational, which means the services are not religious but are a bit like the Jaws we have at Bedales. In fact, there are many similarities between our two communities and we share many of the same values, which meant that we felt quite at home when we arrived.

The choirs sang a challenging programme of music depicting the passing of the hours throughout the day, from the darkness before the dawn to daybreak, noon and evening. Block 5 student Joel Edgeworth started the service with a piano solo based on the jazz standard Stella by Starlight, and then the combined choirs sang Sure on this Shining Night by the American composer Morten Lauridsen, O Radiant Dawn by the Scottish composer James MacMillan, Silent Noon (with a stunning solo by Florence Pohlschmidt) by Vaughan Williams, My Spirit Sang all Day by Old Bedalian parent Gerald Finzi, before finishing with Evening Hymn by the Victorian composer Henry Balfour-Gardiner.

The music was interspersed with poetry readings of works by Shakespeare, Gerard Manly Hopkins, Jenny Joseph, Eleanor Wilner and Emily Dickinson, and Joel and Block 4 student Siena Marcos Bancroft Cooke performed these with confidence. Will Goldsmith also gave a reading and sang with choirs alongside Natalie and Doug, and many thanks to Matilda McMorrow for accompanying us on the trip.

It was inspiring to sing with the Somerville undergraduates and we had a chance to talk to them over coffee and find out a bit more about college life. For all those thinking about choosing a university, it was good to reflect on how a community supports its students and the intimate confines of Somerville College reminded us of the supportive community we have here at Bedales.

Return of the Three Schools’ Concert

By Doug McIlwraith, Director of Music

One of the most difficult music events to organise during the pandemic was the Three Schools’ Concert. However, we managed to find time for musicians and singers from all three schools to meet and work together this week and the result was a very enjoyable concert with some wonderful music and a great feeling of community spirit.

Ben Harlan was inspirational in leading the orchestra in music by Purcell and Dvorak and this included many players form Dunhurst and Bedales. Dunhurst music scholars Tommy Hornsby and Eliot Santos (both Block 2) gave stunning solo performances on the cello and violin, demonstrating the musical ambition inherent in the artistic ethos at Bedales, and Bedales music scholar Leela Walton (6.1) gave a very mature and emotional rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Canzonettafrom his Violin Concerto. It was particularly wonderful to hear from Leela as she is one of our many musicians who joined in Dunannie and now lead the music in the senior school.

Music from our contemporary musicians demonstrated the variety of musical interests that we nurture at Bedales and Dunannie brought the house down with their song Baby Beluga which told the story of a little white whale. Singers form all schools then joined to sing Stand By Me by Ben E King with a solo from Joel Edgeworth and the concert ended with some rousing singing by everyone of the four gospel favourites.  

We thought it was important for the Bedalians to inspire the younger musicians but it was clear on this occasion that that influence worked from the bottom up and the talents and enthusiasms of the Dunhurst and Dunannie pupils had a miraculous and enervating effect on our older musicians. We look forward to more three schools events in the near future as they are a wonderful way of celebrating what the Bedales community has to offer.

Music competition success

By Doug McIlwraith, Director of Music

Two of our hard-working musicians have won through to the final rounds of some prestigious music competitions. Elliot Cundy (Block 3) recently competed in the first round of the Royal Academy of Music’s Junior Department Piano Competition. Elliot performed Chopin’s virtuosic Fantasie Impromptu and was placed in the top three and goes on to compete in the final in a few weeks’ time. This is particularly impressive given that the piano is Elliot’s second instrument after double bass! We wish him every success for the final and our congratulations for his success so far.
Block 4 student Shoshana Yugin Power has won through to the final round of the Winchester Concerto Competition with three other competitors. Shoshana (pictured above at the competition) performed on the flute and was the youngest of all the competitors. It is particularly pleasing that she is through to the next round as she was actually successful in 2021 but the final event was cancelled due to the pandemic. Well done to Shoshana for returning and earning her place in the final again.
Shoshana also won the Under 14 category in the Petersfield Festival Young Composer Competition with her piece Elemental Elements which she composed for flute and piano. It is a piece inspired by the chemical elements and reflects Shoshana’s fascination with science as well as modern musical techniques. The completion was judged by the composer Jonathan Willcocks who also happens to be a former Director of Music at Bedales. We are glad he had the chance to see that creativity is very much alive at Bedales and well done again to Shoshana for making the most of this opportunity.

Prep schools visit Bedales for Music Day

By Doug McIlwraith, Director of Music

On Thursday, we welcomed 40 pupils from Dorset House School, The Prebendal School and Froxfield and Steep primary schools for a music day. They were joined and supported brilliantly by over 20 Bedalians who assisted with pieces for orchestra and choir. The orchestra learnt music by Purcell and Dvorak, as well as a piece specially written for the occasion, which blended a bit of techno with orchestral colour, and the pupils thoroughly enjoyed. 

It was wonderful to see how our students interacted with the young visitors and helped build their enthusiasm and confidence and the whole group made swift and pleasing progress. We then opened the doors to let in some fresh air and sang several silly songs and a choral rendition of Ben E King’s Stand By Me. Our guitar teacher Kevin Walker was on hand to assist a group of fledgling guitarists ably assisted by Block 3 student Wulfie Pink-Smith and they worked on a blues improvisation. Imogen Tillotsen and Elliot Cundy gave impressive performances on harp and piano to inspire the visitors – and then they had an amazing 45-minute preview of the Rock Show which utterly blew their minds! The day ended with an open workshop for visiting parents where we presented the fruits of our work.

Thanks so much to all of our students who helped in the Lupton Hall and to the Rock Show musicians who contributed magnificently to the event. It was our first musical event where we have been able to invite young musicians from beyond our community to join us and we look forward to future joint events where Bedalian musicians can help inspire a new generation of young players. Particular thanks go to Janie Jarman, Rachel Hinett and Matt Potts for ensuring everyone was in the right place at the right time and well fed.

‘Impressive’ annual Cecilia Concert

By Doug McIlwraith, Director of Music

Congratulations and heartfelt thanks to all the students who performed so brilliantly at the St Cecilia Concert this week and who entertained a large audience of enthusiastic parents and guests who were clearly thrilled by what they heard. Highlights of the evening included a well-polished performance by the full orchestra of 45 musicians playing music by Vaughan-Williams and Shostakovich and some of our advanced performers gave solo performances: Shoshana Yugin-Power (flute) and Elliot Cundy (double bass) both gave impressive virtuosic performances of music by modern English composers expertly accompanied by Hiroko Banks. Joel Edgeworth (piano) then gave us his take on the jazz standard Polka Dots and Moonbeams accompanied by Monty Bland on the double bass, both performers working together to recreate this wonderful song in their own style.   

The orchestral sections then gave performances which included a highly enjoyable rendition of Purcell’s Funeral Music for Queen Mary by spacing the brass and percussion throughout the theatre and used the side galleries to create antiphonal effects which the audience thoroughly enjoyed. The percussion ensemble introduced us to the world of minimalism in a complicated piece Short on Time written for the occasion by our percussion teacher Simon Whittaker which required deep concentration from all! The string quartet which comprised Lila Levingston, Samantha Dale, Saya Pulverer and Tiger Braun-White gave one of the most impressive performances at Bedales in recent years in their rendition of O Frederik, O Frederik, a folk tune arranged by the Danish String Quartet. This piece is hugely energetic and complicated but utterly captivating and they delivered it with poise and precision; a real treat!  

The evening was then rounded off with some precise and vibrant playing from the jazz band with the brilliant Mabel Watson singing Gershwin’s S’Wonderful and the choir of 48 singers finished the evening with several pieces including an up-tempo version of Irving Berlin’s Blue Skies and a gospel version of Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge over Troubled Water. A particular thanks to Joanne Greenwood, Amanda Brewer and the ushers for helping the event run smoothly and to Neil Hornsby and Will Lithgow for masterminding the complicated stage changes. 

Music Exhibitioners’ Concerts, 1 & 2 December: Next week, our music exhibitioners will show off their progress in two concerts of solo and duet items in the Lupton Hall. We have put on a extra evening as we have so many performers who want to perform (a good problem to have!) and you can book tickets for the 1 December performance here and the 2 December performance here.

Social media and music competition – invitation for students

By Kirsten McLintock, Head of Wellbeing & PSHE

Positive use of social media is to be welcomed and students are aware that finding your passion and playing/creating sound can have a positive effect on our emotional health and wellbeing.

To this end, Graduation Records are offering Bedales students the opportunity to combine both interests and make some music.This is an exclusive competition for Bedales: Create a Tik Tok video with the theme ‘A day in the Life’ using the song embedded here, using the hashtag #BEDALESTIKTOK 

There are prizes for the best submissions from Nando’s, ASOS, Amazon and more. Graduation Records are also offering an additional prize for our independent artists and creatives:

  • A&R Support (have your recordings listened to and get feedback from leading industry professionals)
  • Have your latest single pitched to Spotify and Apple Music’s playlist curators for the chance to receive editorial support
  • Playlists masterclass on Zoom (‘how to get your music heard’) 
  • Have your music pitched to National & Community radio stations for plays across the UK. 

Deadline for submissions in Tuesday 8 June.

View the competition flyer here.

Reflections on the NCEM Young Composers Award

An original composition by a Block 3 student Shoshana was recently shortlisted in the National Centre for Early Music (NCEM)’s Young Composers Award 2021. After performing her composition in the final on 13 May, Shoshana reflects here on her experience in the competition. Listen to Shoshana’s composition, ‘Dancing Through Time’, here.

By Shoshana Yugin-Power, Block 3

When I first heard about the NCEM Young Composers Award, I knew I had to enter for the chance to meet my favourite ensemble, Palisander. As a recorder player myself, I was keen to rise to the challenge to create a piece of dance music for four recorders.

The brief was broad and any dance music was allowed. I was inspired by the numerous YouTube videos I watched in lockdown of things changing rapidly through time – such as fashion, dance and music – and was particularly interested in the idea of the transition between the styles. My goal was to meet Palisander in person by being shortlisted for the final, but I never imagined that would really happen! I was thrilled to be contacted by NCEM to say I was in the final, after they had selected my piece from 68 other entries.

After numerous lockdowns and months when social distancing and bubbles had prevented orchestras and ensembles from gathering, it was with real excitement that I made my way to the city of York, home of the National Centre of Early Music, for the final earlier this month. Once I arrived in York (by train – I enjoyed every moment of the journey, including delays, as public transport in itself is something of a novelty at the moment), I made my way to St Margaret’s Church.

I was one of five finalists in the Under 18 category of the competition, which was sponsored by BBC Radio 3. I spent the day listening to the other finalists’ pieces and attending engaging workshops led by Dr Christopher Fox and Palisander. I was amazed with the standard of the other finalists and it was fascinating to see their interpretation of the brief.  The moment I heard the winning entry in the Under 18 category, I knew it would be the winner – even before I heard the others. It was the dance of swallows in a murmuration.

In the workshop, I had to present my piece and work with Palisander to develop it even further. I learnt so much about how to negotiate changes to my piece to suit the players and how to present my work confidently. In the evening, there was a private concert involving all the young composers’ pieces as well as several pieces from Palisander’s repertoire.

The whole day was an incredible experience. Not only has enabled me to see myself as a composer, but I made many new friends and contacts, the winning composer gave me a copy of the winning entry to play with my recorder friends, and I am already writing my next piece with much more confidence than I previously had.

Ensembles impress at annual Cecilia Concert

By Doug McIlwraith, Director of Music

On Monday, 54 students took to the stage of the Oliver Theatre for the first major music department ensembles concert since March 2020. The orchestra had been split into its constituent parts and each ensemble played a short selection of pieces.

An impressive 15-piece brass ensemble started the evening of with energetic performance of a Fanfare by Wagner and Leroy Anderson’s Bugler’s Holiday. Leela Walton and Samantha Dale had prepared the famous Double Violin Concerto by Bach and they were accompanied by a small baroque ensemble which included support from Lila Levingston and Tiger Braun-White. Soloists and accompanists alike impressed with their confident and stylish performance.

The string ensemble gave excellent renditions of music by Holst and John Williams and a music stand malfunction mid-performance failed to mar their polished performance!  Eight new students had swelled the ranks of the woodwind ensemble which gave a very convincing performance of a Divertimento by Haydn, full of charm and really fine musical detail.

The singers had a slightly harder job as we were only able to have 15 singers at a time on the stage and the choirs are usually twice that size. However the junior singers sang Mozart’s Ave verum with real confidence and the senior singers sang music from the 1500s by Bennet, Victoria and an anonymous madrigal from northern Spain. The percussion ensemble were joined by Shoshana Yugin-Power on the flute and Monty Bland on the double bass for Mongo Santamaria’s Afro Blue, and the jazzy mood continued with the jazz band rounding the evening off with Eddie Harris’ Cool Duck Time.

It was quite an operation to put all this together and abide by the COVID restrictions but the students did brilliantly, aided by the Theatre and Music staff to whom I am extremely grateful.

Soloists shine at November Chamber Concert

By Doug McIlwraith, Director of Music

Thank you to Bedales musicians who took to the stage on Monday evening for the second Chamber Concert of the term. A group of well-rehearsed soloists entertained an audience of students with music ranging from the classical era through to jazz and music for acoustic guitar.

Jamie Loudon made an impressive start to the concert with Neruda’s Trumpet Concerto, which demonstrated his beautiful tone and firm technique on some tricky high notes. Joel Edgeworth played a beautifully meditative jazz piece on the piano called Tenderly by Walter Gross which was listened to in rapt silence. Max Koca and Livvy Edgeworth performed brilliant vocal vocal solos and Arthur Lingham tackled one of Schubert’s famous Impromtus on the piano.

Tobias Bonham-Carter’s exuberant Bugler’s Holiday contrasted with Martha Lye-Rees’ melancholy clarinet solo All in the Past by Latvian composer Pelēcis. Laurence Johari wowed the audience with Acousticore by German guitarist Rauscher which called for all sorts of percussive effects and tricks on the body of the guitar. Shoshana Yugin-Power closed the concert with a very intricate piece on the flute by Hungarian Composer Doppler which was a suitably impressive finale to the evening.  

Two other highlights which you can watch below is Block 3 student Eliza Hayward’s debut performance at Bedales with Neilsen’s Fantasy for Clarinet which she played with real assurance and style. Also, Monty Bland performs D Blues by Turetzky on the double bass, half of which is actually an improvisation.

Thanks to all the performers for their hard work and to Will Lithgow for pulling the concert together and doing much of the accompanying. Thanks also to Clara Batty for introducing the performers and bringing wit and charm to the proceedings! 

Explosive Bonfire Band Night

By Neil Hornsby, Head of Contemporary Music

Last Thursday, two socially distanced audiences were treated to a Band Night unlike any other. The audience may have missed out on the Steep fireworks display this year, but there were more than enough musical fireworks to make up for it in the Theatre, as well as actual live pyrotechnics to get everyone in a Bonfire Night mood. A varied set of 16 songs performed by students from every year group at Bedales highlighted the amazing range of musical talent on offer. 

Block 3 students Siena Marcos Bancroft Cooke, Hendrix Campbell, Kobe Carter-Johnson, Saffi Forder, Saul Zimdahl, Storm Verwey and Theo Stewart showed that the future of the Bedales Rock Show is in safe hands and it was amazing to see such confident performances from those so young. 

Classic songs by The Strokes, Rage Against the Machine and Michael Jackson were complemented by the ingenious original songs of Lula Goldring, Molly Montagu and Jake Scott and the evening was brought to a close by a rousing rendition of The Killers’ Mr Brightside sung by George Vaux that got a necessarily restrained audience on its feet and dancing (in place!)

In these Covid times, the most important members of the Band Night team were our amazing stage crew. Tom Bonnar, Sam Coleman, Tashi Feinstein, Oliver Jones and Joe Wilson made sure everything ran safely and smoothly. Of course, none of this would have been possible without the help and support of the wonderful Joanne Greenwood.