Music, Glorious Music!

13 May 2022

We are always ever so proud of the amazing talents of our students and staff, and our Music Department definitely does not shy away from showcasing such talent from the school community.

At the beginning of the term, 30 of our students went off-site for a ‘Try The Organ Day’. Even in today’s more gender-conscious culture, the organ is still known as the King of Instruments. Perhaps this is because it is one of the most obvious remaining areas of the musical profession where there still is a pronounced inequality of opportunity for women, which can be traced partly back to respective opportunities to learn the organ at boys’ and girls’ schools. The organ is an exciting instrument to learn to play, and Oxford contains a number of wonderful instruments which our pupils had the opportunity to try out on Thursday 28th April. They were guided by Dr Nicholas Prozzillo, organ recitalist, Director of Music at St. Giles Church, and teacher of sundry Oxford organ scholars, who introduced us to some of the many sounds a pipe organ can produce. All the students who wanted to had the opportunity to play the instruments at St. Giles, at Pembroke College and at Merton College. Some had brought organ pieces they were already learning, some had brought piano pieces to transfer to the organ, and others were simply improvising. Learning the organ can definitely be a passport to future opportunities (many of the more prestigious universities offer generous scholarships to organists of about Grade 8 standard), and having the sonic power of the Merton organ at your fingertips is a truly exhilarating feeling.

Earlier this week, we were treated to a fantastic evening concert by our visiting Music teachers and Music staff – the Baroness Warnock Memorial Concert. Baroness Mary Warnock was a distinguished former head of OHS and a passionate music lover, after whom the school’s Music block is named.  Sadly she passed away in 2019, and our plans to hold a memorial concert for her were subsequently interrupted by the pandemic.  However, after repeated postponements, the Baroness Warnock Memorial Concert finally took place on Wednesday evening.  The concert featured several of the Music Department staff as performers, who entranced an enthusiastic audience of parents and students.  We heard a series of virtuoso solo performances on our (still fairly new) Steinway grand piano, with Mrs Levvy giving us two of Debussy’s Estampes, Mrs Rosenberg a Liszt Concert Etude, and Miss Hinds the dramatic and turbulent Piano Sonata by Janacek.  We also heard some quirky Samuel Barber songs from Mrs Ballard, and Schubert’s glorious Shepherd on the Rock from Ms Cooper, with the clarinet echoes supplied by Dr Foster.  At either end of the concert came a pair of trios: Mozart on clarinet, viola and piano from Dr Foster, Miss Bastin and Miss Hinds, then Beethoven on violin, cello and piano from Mrs Miles, Mrs Levvy and their friend Trevor Burley.  The entire evening was a delightful and generous gift to the school community by our wonderfully talented visiting music teachers, and some of the students in attendance even seemed quite impressed at their teachers’ musical skills.  Mrs Gardiner-Legge referred to it as ‘the first Warnock Memorial Concert’, so who knows when the next one might be?

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