Having studied the German late Romantic and Modernist movements outside of our exam curriculum, we have left the 6.2 bridging course feeling enriched by this introduction to some extremely poignant and beautiful works.
As Doug commented when talking about Strauss’ final trio and duet in Der Rosenkavalier, it has been a true ‘palette cleanse’ studying these composers, especially following the rather heavy curricular garlic bread of Wagner’s Ring Cycle.
We were collectively moved by the gorgeous quintet in his Die Meistersinger and were left feeling surprised that Wagner could produce something so lyrical, cantabile and moving, having been exposed to his denser works as part of our Pre-U course. This was a highlight for me, Johnny and Bella.
For those whose interests lie more in more instrumental works, a favourite arose in the shape of Mahler’s 8th Symphony and Stravinski’s Firebird for Sampson, Jamie and Mary. The gradual build-up of the instrumentation in the Firebird made for an epic finale for a ballet.
The lockdown period has been an amazingly creative time for musicians around the world and our current Contemporary Music students have been inspired by following the online exploits of some of our musical alumni.
Delilah Montagu (OB 2016) performed with South African DJ and producer Black Coffee in the One World: Together At Home concert on 18 April that featured a huge range of the world’s biggest stars in music from Billie Eilish to Elton John and the Rolling Stones. Marika Hackman (2010) played the DIYsolation Festival, Minke (Leah Mason, 2009) has been extremely active from her living room in Los Angeles, performing at several online gigs including the Uncancelled Music Festival and 7 Layers, Quarantine Edition. Minke’s brilliant new single, Elsewhere, is released today across all platforms. Listen to it on Spotify here, follow her on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and catch her in a lockdown gig soon!
When Bedales closed its doors to students five weeks ago, I set our students the task of producing some online content that would both help to keep them busy and also hopefully bring one or two smiles to the faces of the Bedales community. What has since followed has been one of the most meaningful and creative periods I have ever had the fortune of witnessing in all of my years at Bedales.
From spectacular original songs to fun covers, innovative video collaborations to hilarious outtakes. Students have been constantly learning new skills to turn their creative visions into very real end product. From how to record bands across three continents with limited equipment, using specialist music and editing software to create professional quality video, learning stop motion video techniques, researching how best to stream live concerts (more of which to follow in the coming weeks) and learning new ways to collaborate with each other during this unique period. We’ve been sharing the finished results on our social media channels, but if you’ve missed any, you can access all the videos on the Bedales Vimeo channel here.
After a term’s worth of rehearsals, the long-awaited Spring Concert took place on Wednesday. An exciting programme full of a wide variety of styles laid ahead of us and finally it was ready to begin.
The concert opened with a raucuous and flamboyant piece: Rossini’s overture from The Thieving Magpie. The catchy melodies and high energy was perfect to open the concert, and with the equally fun conducting from Bedales Prep, Dunhurst’s Director of Music, Ben Harlan, the stage was set for a very enjoyable concert full of pieces to please.
The orchestra followed with the two most popular pieces from Grieg’s Peer Gynt suites: Morning and In the Hall of the Mountain King. Morning showed off the warm strings’ and delicate winds’ evident practice, resulting in a truly beautiful piece played with the beauty it deserves. There wasn’t long to wait before everyone was on the edge of their seats again as they listened to the ever increasing tension and drama of In the Hall of the Mountain King, conducted by 6.2 student and Music Don Sampson Keung.
On Wednesday, the Bedales Choir had the opportunity to go to the University of Cambridge and join the Choir from Queens’ College for their Evensong service in the college chapel. It was a wonderful experience to sing in a beautiful chapel with fantastic acoustics.
Repertoires from the evening included Dyson’s Magnificatand Nunc Dimmitis in D, as well as Haydn’s Insanae et vanae curae. The service was conducted by Eton College’s former Director of Music, Ralph Allwood, who, some will remember, visited Bedales in October 2019 for a sight reading workshop. The audience enjoyed the high quality of singing from the choir, who were accompanied by a former organ scholar from Cambridge, and we were all impressed by his virtuous performance.
As well as the Evensong service, we had the chance to take a tour around the University of Cambridge with Old Bedalian Josh Mazas, who is currently studying at [college]. Thank you so much to Doug McIlwraith for organising this amazing trip, and Jo Mayhook-Walker and Phillip Guy-Bromley for their help with the choir.
On Wednesday night, Bedales musicians embarked on their annual Cecilia Concert, which this year took place in the Lupton Hall. It was a night of uplifting and challenging choral and instrumental music, covering a multitude of musical styles ranging from Renaissance to modern jazz, showcasing the sheer volume of talent at Bedales.
The concert commenced with the Orchestra boldly and sensitively performing the first movement of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony (pictured above during rehearsals), which was conducted brilliantly by the Director of Music, Doug McIlwraith.
This was followed by the Student Orchestra, directed by Sampson Keung and Mary Wang, who demonstrated impressive leadership and conducting skills. Weeks of rehearsals and hard work paid off when they performed Elgar’s famous Chanson de Matin and Chanson de Nuit with much conviction and energy.
From September 2020, students in 6.1 will be able to choose Music Technology as one of their A Level options.
Bedales has a rich tradition of students successfully following career paths into the music industry – from major label recording artists, instrumentalists and producers, to record label bosses, musical directors, music managers, A&R and sound engineers.
The Music Technology A Level course will teach students how great music is produced and give them the skills to create compelling music of their own. Delivered within Bedales’ successful and innovative Contemporary Music department, the course will provide the scope and framework for students to develop key skills and prepare them to work independently through personal and collaborative projects.
By Neil Hornsby, Head of Contemporary Music Photo by Abby Hilton, 6.1
The Thursday before half term saw a wonderful musical collaboration between Bedales, Dunhurst and Dunannie in the third annual Three Schools’ Concert. A packed Lupton Hall witnessed a night like no other with 83 students taking part, ranging in age from seven all the way up to 18.
There were performances featuring each school, including Head Girl Lara Rippinger’s take on Esperanza Spalding’s I Know You Know, Group 3 Dunhurst student Eliot Santos’ show-stopping performance of Karl Bohm’s Perpetual Motion and the Dunannie Year 3 choir’s wonderful performance of Under the Sea from The Little Mermaid.
On 9 October, the renowned conductor and choirmaster Ralph Allwood came to Bedales for a very musical day. Ralph was for many years the Director of Music at Eton College and he now conducts the Choir of Queen’s College Cambridge and the Chapel Choir of Trinity Laban College.
Ralph has recently written a book all about how to sight-sing. All of the singers in the school were given a copy, and all morning we were coached by Ralph. It was a really good workshop and we all improved greatly. A few of us also had lunch with Ralph and Doug, where we were very fortunate to be given lots of advice about singing and the music industry.
After lunch, the Chamber Choir came together and we sang lots of different pieces we had been working on in choir. Ralph coached us and by the end we sounded like a different choir! A thoroughly enjoyable day – thank you to Doug for organising and Ralph for giving up his time.
A different and inspiring night was had by four Bedales contemporary musicians as we performed at the Women in Business Awards in Windsor on 30 September.
The Women in Business Awards celebrates the tremendous work leading ladies have done to achieve their goals and to inspire other women to follow their own ambitions. The overriding message from the keynote speakers was that you can accomplish your goals if you work hard and put your mind to it.
We were invited to perform music to add to the ambience of the evening. Safi Kazim once again blew the audience away with her outstanding originals. Mabel Watson and Lila Levingston also impressed the crowd with their beautifully sung covers, and I accompanied them all!
We all thoroughly enjoyed our evening and it was interesting to meet such pioneering women who wanted to share their experiences with other successful – and aspiring – professionals. A big thank you to Tamsin Napier-Munn, Host and Manager of the Women in Business Awards, for inviting us to play at such a thought-provoking event, and we hope to be invited back next year!
Tamsin added: “The Women in Business Awards is one of the highlights of the year in the Thames Valley and the South, celebrating, encouraging and inspiring business women in the region who have had the courage to step up and be recognised for their achievements. This year, we were delighted to have four talented performers from Bedales sing and play for us, helping us create a wonderful atmosphere. A huge thank you to Mabel, Minna, Safi and Lila, for your professionalism and commitment to the evening. You are inspiring, hugely talented young women; thank you for sharing your talent with us.”