This week saw the third and final Bedales Parents’ Association (BPA) gathering of the school year with a talk entitled ‘Bedales Outside the Classroom: Delivering the Head, Hand and Heart Experience’ (watch a recording of the talk here).
Lead by Deputy Head (Operational and Co-Curricular) Phil Tattersall-King, we were also joined by Spencer Leach (Director of Sport), Doug McIlwraith (Director of Music) and Jess Warren (Head of Psychology and Enrichment), along with two current Bedales students, Kam Nelson-Clayton (Block 5) and Jess Asamoa (6.1).
We looked at what’s on offer across the unique and far-reaching Bedales landscape outside of the classroom curriculum, and why these activities form such a vital part of the holistic Bedales experience for students and their families. We also delved into the need to strike the right balance between the compulsory and optional provision of music, sport, theatre and the myriad other opportunities available during a student’s time at Bedales.
The BPA are grateful to the team for giving us their time and energy and we’re so looking forward to holding more events like this one in the coming school year. Some online gatherings for those who can’t make it into school will remain, but we’re thrilled to start planning to gather together in person once again too!
One of the best takeaways from this week’s talk for me was the prospect of so many exciting events already lined up on the imminent school calendar that showcase the richness of our school’s co-curricular programme, with orchestral concerts, plays and dance recitals, the Rock Show and of course Parents’ Day all coming up before the end of this Summer Term. We look forward to seeing you around the campus and enjoying all that makes Bedales such a special place to be, together.
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.
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.
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!
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.
One of the most exciting things about the Music Technology A Level that we are now offering is that a significant amount of the course can be specifically tailored to each individual student’s musical passions. Whilst the final practical projects in 6.2 are set to structured briefs, there is a lot of leeway within that structure to explore different genres of music.
So far this term we have listened to and analysed lots of music recorded by successful Old Bedalians who started their musical journeys in the very studio our current students have their lessons in. Each student has also begun working on two personal projects: recording a cover of a classic song and composing a piece of music using all of the new equipment available to use in the Bedales recording studio, including a classic Moog Grandmother synthesizer. Although every project is unique to each student, there has been a real sense of collaboration with everyone sharing their particular musical skills to contribute to each other’s tracks.
Students have also begun to explore the most challenging part of the course – mixing large multi-track projects, and we have been lucky enough to source some amazing material to practice on featuring multi-tracks of classic songs by legendary artists. There is a real sense of enjoyment coming from the creation of exciting music and it is often forgotten that this all counts as actual schoolwork working towards a formal A Level as there is so much fun to be had.
Find out more about Music Technology A Level here.
After we had settled into our socially distanced seats in the Theatre last Saturday, we waited excitedly to see what Merry Evening would bring. Spanning two nights this year to ensure that plenty of students had an opportunity to attend amidst the current restrictions, it marked the return of live music to Bedales – but the restrictions didn’t hamper the amazing atmosphere!
The Upstanding Jokes opened on Saturday night with their signature rambunctious style, this time slathered onto the Beastie Boys’ hit Gratitude, followed by Patrick O’Donnell’s performance of the smooth pop rock tune New Shoes by Paolo Nutini. Next up, Nay Murphy sang the sweetest rendition of Billy Joel’s New York State of Mind. He was accompanied by Monty Bland, Joe Mendes and Tiger Braun-White, who also performed a wonderful keyboard solo.
Millie Bolton then took us on a journey of romantic excitement with Mae Miller’s Anticlimax; her Lily Allen-esque tone was wonderful and representative of the individual artist she’s becoming. Next was Freya Hannan-Mills, who performed Slow by Rumer; her sultry tone matched the song’s jazzy chords and laidback beat perfectly. Jake Scott then performed one of his originals. The catchy chorus and up-beat guitar made for a great song by a great young artist.
Martha Rye Lees gave the only fully acoustic instrument of the night. Her folk violin tune in theme and variation form was a wonderful change of scene and as a string player myself I was very impressed with her playing. Roo Trim’s original song was next. She sang about helplessness and losing hope in humanity as we all watch our world crumble due to climate change and increased levels of corporatism. It was a truly touching song and a vulnerable and beautifully expressed look into her mind.
Someone we all expect to see on stage at some point in the year was up next. With her signature piano and mic combo, Molly Montagu gave a stunning performance of One and Only by Adele that would impress even those who might say there’s no point covering Adele’s songs because she’s already sung them perfectly herself.
Another newcomer and the younger of the Murphy brothers, Zeb sang and played a folk tune on religion that explained the insightful questions the youth have on the societal systems we have in place. A very mature performance, I’m sure we’re all looking forward to seeing more of Zeb in the future. Another sibling pairing was present last Saturday: Livvy and Joel Edgeworth performed Billy Joel’s Vienna. The chemistry was obvious and made for a wonderful performance of a great song, it was wonderful to see that older songs aren’t being forgotten despite all the new music being pumped out nowadays.
Other highlights included Skye Williams singing Golden Dandelions with Kit Mayhook-Walker accompanying on guitar and Saffi Forder on the piano, who also accompanied Storm Verwey later in the show for her cover of Adele’s Skyfall.
Tiger Braun-White presented his original song Tricks of the Trade, sung by Lila Levingston with Tiger, Monty, and Joe accompanying. The penultimate performer on Saturday was Bedales Contemporary Music royalty, Isabella Montero, who performed another of her self-penned songs, this time an upbeat song about young love.
Finally, the evening was brought to a close with George Vaux and his laptop. George performed all the instrumental and vocal parts to the dance hit Gypsy Woman which had us all on our feet and dancing.
After a night of great performances by great performers, I know everyone in the audience left humming something new. I’m looking forward to going to Band Night on 5 November – I’m sure it’ll be even better than any of us could imagine.
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.