The Christmas Concert on Wednesday 12 December showcased the Music Department’s larger ensembles and some senior musicians and chamber groups. Undeterred by the fire alarm, which interrupted our opener, “It Came Upon The Midnight Clear”, the audience, orchestra and choir returned to their respective places and restarted the evening’s proceedings with a roof-raising rendition of the carol.
The Symphony Orchestra, led by Year 13 violinist Max, continued then with the three movements of Vaughan Williams’ “English Folk Song Suite” and, in the second half, the “Grand March” from Aida, both with great precision and palpable energy. Lily was not to be kept down by the winter illness trying to take hold and managed to deliver an enjoyable vocal solo with the support of an excellent student band. Archie’s medley of Christmas favourites went down a storm, performed very skilfully by a quartet of the bassoonist himself, along with Charlotte on flute, James on clarinet and Matt on saxophone. Dennis Mycroft’s Brass Band got everyone tapping their feet to arrangements of Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke” and James Brown’s “I Got You”. An eight-piece band of sixth-form students then ably tackled the mighty “Bohemian Rhapsody”, that epic, progressive rock suite, known the world over and celebrated for its challenging vocal and instrumental lines. The Chamber Choir closed the first half of the programme with the reflective and intimate traditional Basque carol “Sing Lullaby”.
After a second opportunity for the audience to stretch their vocal chords, the Chamber Choir returned to sing a sequence of movements from Fauré’s Requiem. Though not a traditional choice for Christmas, the music is so beautifully written, it really doesn’t matter when it is heard! This was among the best of any musical performances I’ve ever experienced at St Olave’s; the Chamber Choir and Lulu and Gareth – the two soloists from within the group – sang sublimely and with such feeling; it was really rather moving. The Symphonic Wind Band followed with a clever and entertaining arrangement of Gershwin tunes, which the ensemble played with infectious enthusiasm and charm. The concert concluded with performances from two large, long-standing ensembles, running now for more years than I can count and probably also at another high-point in their distinguished history. The Chamber Orchestra, directed by Doug Blew, showcased Holst’s A Moorside Suite, including lyrical solos by violinist Max and cellist Ivan. The music conjured expanses of the English countryscape in all its glory. Finally, sending us out reinvigorated and with beaming smiles all-round, Nick Beston’s Jazz Band filled the hall both figuratively and literally with a clash of bright colours. Their finale featured vocal solos from Lily and Matt, a first for the band, and what a success it was.
The hard work of all student and staff participants was richly rewarded in what was a first-rate evening enjoyed by all. With a blend of choral and orchestral favourites, as well as festive-themed items on the programme, the event was a superb send-off at the end of an industrious term, starting the countdown for a well-earned rest over the approaching holiday period. Congratulations to all musicians involved and my sincere thanks go to everyone who helped put together such a memorable occasion.