Yesterday evening’s Senior School Concert saw our musicians and singers deliver a triumphant, visually stunning rendition of Purcell’s wonderful opera Dido and Aeneas, as well as several other pieces with a distinctive English theme.
It was a wonderful evening, made especially memorable by the perfect marriage of form and content, as we listened to these wonderful English pieces within the sublime Byzantine settings of St Barnabas, Jericho. This beautiful Victorian church, built in Basilica-style and remembered in the writing of both Hardy and Betjeman, provided a highly distinctive, acoustically resonant space that displayed the girls’ musical efforts to – with no exaggeration – breathtaking effect.
The English focus for the evening was felt in the first half, with the senior ensembles performing music by Vaughan-Williams and Holst, as well as Strauss’ ‘Radetsky March’ and two memorable forays into modern song by the Muses and Musettes. Next the beautiful, melancholy refrains of the Senior Choir’s woodwind section captured the timeless quality of the songs being performed in the ‘English Folk Songs Suite’, before Saralynn in Year 7 entertained the interval crowd with a spirited medley on the organ.
The second half saw the space reconfigured and the lights dropped as we were launched into what turned out to be a truly captivating performance of Dido and Aeneas, arguably the first English opera ever written. With a libretto by Dryden, the tragic tale of Dido came vividly to life before us with its cast of boozy sailors, vile sorceresses and faithless love. A fantastic range of vocal talent enriched the performance, from the a cappella chorus to the main cast – but the finale was left to Ellen Macrae’s performance of Dido’s Lament – and long after the lights had dimmed one last time and the final rose had been strewn on Dido’s sleeping form, the famous refrain, ‘Remember me, remember me, but ah! forget my fate!’ seemed to echo off the walls.
Huge credit must go all our performers, therefore, as well as a special vote of thanks to Dr Foster and all the music teachers who came together to select and rehearse these pieces and inspire such a wonderful performance from the girls!