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.
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.