Concerts 2014 – 15: Director of Music’s Report
Could anyone resist a night at the opera? We certainly couldn’t, so it was Mrs Knapp’s idea to create a selection of glorious arias and choruses from well known romantic operas for the second half of our annual Sheldonian Concert. Verdi, Puccini, Delibes, Tchaikovsky and Borodin were represented. Zixuan Wang’s rich and powerful voice was featured in the solos; the sweet, clear voices of Hannah Cross and Mhairi Angus blended perfectly in Delibe’s Flower Duet, and Hugo Tucker sang Lensky’s aria with dramatic power. Senior Choir clearly relished their various dramatic roles, and the whole thing was accompanied with great skill by Senior Orchestra. Bravo!
Senior Orchestra and String Orchestra, under the leadership of Yilan Huang, Joanne Rose and Charlotte Strivens, have enjoyed a busy and very successful year. Performances have included Beethoven’s Coriolanus Overture, Saint-Saëns’ Bacchanale and the Adagietto from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. The leaders also appeared as accomplished soloists, Joanne in Jenkins’ ever popular Palladio, and Yilan in Vaughan Williams’ rapt The Lark Ascending. Concert Band, our other advanced senior instrumental group, has also had a productive year; it too had a taste of operatic repertoire, opening the Sheldonian Concert with music by Verdi and Donizetti.
We always enjoy performing in Oxford’s beautiful venues, and this year our annual concert featuring A Cappella and String Orchestra was held in the University Church of Saint Mary the Virgin; the programme included Mendelssohn’s String Symphony No.12 and Bach’s exuberant Magnificat. The soloists here were Katie Abell, Mhairi Angus and Hannah Cross (sopranos), Eloise Breen and Harriet Elder (altos), Sheridan Edwards (tenor) and Benjamin Thompson (bass). Chamber Choir gave an accomplished concert of choral music in Saint Margaret’s Church (also the venue this year of our Carol Service). The programme was demanding – possibly the most complex piece was Holst’s eight-part Ave Maria.
All of our choirs have flourished. In contrast to their operatic foray mentioned above, Senior Choir performed Fauré’s devotional Requiem in our annual Town Hall Concert, and Hannah Cross sang the Pie Jesu with exquisite purity. Musettes charmed us with their characteristic verve; all members of the group were in Year 13, and, having sung together for four years, signed off with Clapton’s Tears in Heaven.
Our three Lower School Concerts this year were particularly impressive due to the unusually large number of advanced musicians in Year Nine. Membership of Lower School Orchestra grew to include over 60 players, and the leaders were Phoebe Alexander, Julia Lee, Mimi Mostefai, Georgia Russell, Sophia Xia and Yvonne You. Lower School Choir entertained us with songs from musicals and pop songs old (Abba) and new (Bastille).
This year, the GDST held its first Young Musician of the Year competition. High powered musicians from all the Trust schools gathered together to perform – and compete – at Birkenhead Academy in Liverpool. There were two classes, vocal and instrumental, and we chose Mhairi Angus (soprano) and Mila Ferramosca (violin) to represent Oxford High School. Neither one was eventually chosen by the judges, but both gave superb performances demonstrating their considerable musicianship. Mila was included in the Highly Commended group in the instrumental class; there was no corresponding award for the vocalists, but Mhairi would certainly have been included if there was. Back at school, it was good to hear nearly 60 of our pianists in the Suter Piano Festival; the award for the most promising player in the school was given to Catherine Kay.
And finally, thank you to the many soloists who have played in the Senior Chamber Concerts, Lower School Concerts and Tea Concerts. It has been a tremendous year for our musicians.