‘Friday Afternoons’ at Uppingham – Happy Birthday to Benjamin Britten

GE DIGITAL CAMERAStoneygate School Senior Choir spent an excellent day at Uppingham School on Friday 22 November to celebrate 100 years since Benjamin Britten’s birth. We joined Witham Hall and Heath Mount Schools to sing a set of pieces composed by Benjamin Britten called Friday Afternoons.

It was an excellent day, lead by Mr Parker, Head of Singing at Uppingham School and we worked very hard on the Britten songs. After lunch we had an opportunity to rehearse our own piece in the School Chapel and that went very well. The final rehearsal was a full run through of the Britten songs and it was a hard sing – demanding concentration, physical endurance and a high level of musicality. After a break for squash and biscuits we entered the chapel to see a fantastic number of Stoneygate parents, grandparents and siblings who had come to enjoy the concert.

The concert started with Witham Hall’s choir singing Goodall’s The Lord is my Shepherd, then Heath Mount sang Bring Him Home from Les Miserables. They both demonstrated a high level of skill and great stage presence. Stoneygate School Senior Choir then took to the stage to sing L’Estrange’s arrangement of Go Down, Moses and O Happy Day. I was delighted with the contrasts that we achieved, the confidence of our small group singers, the ensemble skills and the way that all the tricky bits, of starting and stopping clapping in the right places, all worked!

The next two items were sung by Uppingham School Chamber Choir. It was a real treat to hear this wonderful demonstration of beautiful singing. I could see how impressed our pupils were from the way that reacted at the end. Their performance of Stanford’s Beati Quorum Via was subtle and delicate and the arrangement of Somewhere Over the Rainbow was sumptuously rich and expressive.

Then came the reason for being there: Benjamin Britten’s Friday Afternoons. We were not just part of a fantastic concert at Uppingham School, but part of a world-wide event whereby over 100,000 children sang this piece all over the world on the same day. Mr Parker guided us through the piece with guts and passion and there was a real sense of achievement in singing the 12 songs so well. It is a tricky set of songs with many obscure words, difficult and unpredictable melodies, pauses and changes in time signatures etc, but this all made the achievement all the more special.

I was very proud of the team that we took – 55 pupils who all represented the school well. Thanks to Mr Ashwin for accompanying our own piece on the piano with such jazzy style and Mr Hudson for driving and helping everything to run smoothly.

Mrs Ashwin