Year 2 Choir and Junior Choir (all Year 3 and 4) headed off for Kettering yesterday morning looking spick and span. After an uneventful bus journey we got ourself lined up and headed into the spacious Salvation Army Citadel. Year 2 opened our performances with their open choice songs – ‘Nursery Rhyme Picture Book’ and ‘The Lighthouse’. They sang beautifully (with a duet from Archie and Tobie) and throughly deserved their first place ranking with a distinction mark of 87. Comments included ‘a strong confident sound’ and ‘plenty of character’. It was also very nice to hear another choir of the same age sing and watch them doing the things that we have talked about, such as watching the conductor and showing expression on their faces.
Next up were Junior Choir with their open choice songs – ‘The Last Dinosaur’ and ‘Amani Utupe’. I was delighted with the way that they put in place all the dynamics (louds and softs) and endings of words that we had worked on in rehearsals – all you can ever ask is that a choir does its best, and Junior Choir really did! Comments included ‘clarity and humour’ and ‘fine singing’ and it was noted that it was ‘much enjoyed by everyone in the room’. A mark of 89 was wonderful and with no other choirs in that class we were awarded first place.
Then it was Year 2’s turn for the hymn singing. The set hymn was ‘I listen and I listen’ and we chose to perform ‘Break Out’ as our own choice of hymn. In the first hymn, we were lucky to have two pairs of duets, William L and Kenshi for verse 1 and Imran and Clara for verse 4. The choir sang the other verses very beautifully and ‘showed careful listening and clearly pronounced words’. ‘Break Out’ was more lively and ‘the bold sounds of the chorus were great fun’. A mark of 87 was awarded and we we took first place with no other choirs in the class.
The final performance was Junior Choir with their hymns. We opened with our own choice of hymn ‘All Creatures of Our God and King’ featuring Tilly, Sophia and Alice in verse 2 and Jack, Theo and Charles in verse 3. The choir sang this hymn very well and managed the leaps in pitch and the tricky words. I was very proud of the comment that mentioned the ‘Alleluia refrains were well blended with beautiful vowel sounds’. The set hymn ‘He gave me eyes so I could see’ was more upbeat, but tricky with the ever-changing text. The choir demonstrated great ability to learn and deliver the words clearly and with style. Comments noted that the choir has a ‘great team spirit’ and a ‘sense of pride’. With another superb mark of 88, I was certainly very proud of everyone. We took the Rosemary Leonard Shield home and that will sit proudly on display at school.
Not only did our choirs sing beautifully, they also listened very well to the other choirs and they really were a credit to the school. Many thanks to the parents who came along to support us – it really makes a difference to the children. I would like to thank the other teachers who came along and made sure all the key things like biscuits and toilet breaks happened!
This afternoon saw another event as part of our ‘Arts Week’ – the Piano and Strings Concert. We had 26 items from 24 performers and were delighted to have pupils from Year 1 through to Year 8 playing piano, violin and cello. It is wonderful to see pupils in their first concert and then see pupils in their second, third, fourth concerts. The progression is superb and that is down to good teachers, practice and patience (in no particular order!).
In a week where we have been talking a lot about challenges, few of us who have performed in front of others would dispute that performing music is a huge challenge. It is one that gets easier with experience! Children often ask me what will happen if they get something wrong in a concert. I normally reply by saying that there will be an earthquake/everyone will turn into rabbits/they will be expelled … just to make them realise that nothing will happen! All performers have made mistakes and the mistakes are part of the beauty of live performance. Mistakes make us stronger as we learn how to handle them and these are all great life lessons. One huge regret of many adults is that they stopped (or never started) learning an instrument, and it is wonderful to see our pupils so committed to their music and working on a skill that they will have with them for life. Having said all that about mistakes, I really think that the thing that struck me was how much these musicians have got better and stronger since I last heard them. It was a real pleasure to accompany our violinists and cellists and hear our pianists and the warmth of applause from the audience said it all. Well done!
The afternoon started with singers from Years 3-9 performing a variety of songs ably accompanied by Mr Ashwin and, as always, we were grateful for his support. The variety of old and modern songs was well received by the audience. (Too well received in some cases, as the rendition of ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ has resulted in Mr Stocks singing and humming the first two lines (the only ones he knows) ever since.) The singing was followed by students reading poems and extracts on the theme of ‘Heroes and Villains’. The American accent from a Year 9’s rendition of ‘The Prince and Spiderman’ was well received by the students. The strong tradition of reading at Stoneygate continues and for some of those students it was the first time they had had the opportunity to take part in a performance. The audience were tremendously supportive and everyone smashed it!
The interval saw parents touring the Art Room with refreshments provided, including cakes and fabulous pastries. This is fast becoming one of the highlights of the afternoon and Mrs Walters was on hand to discuss the Art on display.
The final part of the programme saw pupils reading extracts from their own stories in an attempt to encourage the audience to view the full versions in the Foyer. A revamp of Snow White, told in dual narration, was one of the highlights. The finale came as the instrumentalists took to the stage. Mrs Ashwin multi-tasked with accompanying the instrumentalists and announcing their pieces. The music was particularly impressive and rounded off with an accomplished piano performance.
Lots of hard work goes into the afternoon, much of it behind the scenes by both staff and students. All our students from Years 3 to 9 are involved in the early stages. The end result was a polished event which ran on time and was well received. Hopefully the opportunity for a third Celebration of The Arts will come along next year.
At the end of the afternoon parents headed for ‘Gate Modern’ for more refreshments in the foyer and a chance to wander around the display work in the classrooms.
On Thursday 22nd February, 20 of our pupils went to Uppingham School for a superb orchestra day. Performing alongside 340 pupils from 21 schools is an amazing experience and our pupils enjoyed performing ‘The Magic of Music’, based on Harry Potter themes as a massed orchestra. The string orchestra performed ‘Four Variations on a theme by Beethoven’ and ‘Hypsilophodon Hoe-Down’. The wind band performed ‘Highlights from Jersey Boys’ and ‘Can’t Stop the Feeling’. The concert opened with Uppingham’s fantastic Jazz Orchestra and it was lovely to see two old Stoneygate pupils in the trumpet section.
I am very grateful to Mrs Angell for coming with us and being such a enthusiastic helper in the percussion section! It was also lovely to have so many parents in the final concert. I hope all the pupils can see the difference that hard work and practice makes. I can’t wait to take everyone again in 2019!
On Thursday, Dr Ouvry-Johns (whom some of you will know as our Carol Service organist) came to talk in assembly about the choirs at Leicester Cathedral. There are auditions coming up for the choirs on Saturday 3 March from 10 – 4 and the information is below. I sing with Dr Ouvry-Johns regularly and love it. A cathedral choir musical education is a fantastic thing that develops skills that stay with you for life – I can’t recommend it highly enough!
Music exams are a part of many musicians’ journey. We are very proud of the success of our players and singers and would like to offer congratulations to:
- Olivia – Grade 1 Music Theory with merit
- Imara – Grade 1 Music Theory with distinction
- Felix – Grade 1 Guitar with distinction
- Karan – Grade 2 Piano
- Shonali – Grade 2 Music Theory with merit
- Rosie – Grade 2 Singing with merit
- Hattie – Grade 7 Singing
On 1 February, we were treated to a lovely display of keyboard, drum, guitar and ukulele playing. There was a variety of styles and pieces and a range of ensembles to enjoy. It was very clear how much work had gone into the preparation as the performances were fluent and stylish. I was too busy enjoying the music to take photos of everyone, but here are a few photos of the concert.