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.

‘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.

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.

‘Uplifting’ annual Cecilia Concert

By Annia Grey and Jonny Greenfield, 6.2

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.

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