The 2019 Choir Dinner took place on Saturday 12 January in the Barraclough. This event is the Headmaster’s annual thank you to the 115 pupils whose choral singing enriches our school services and concerts throughout the year.
We were privileged to welcome Dr David Hill as our guest speaker, whose services to choral music have recently been recognised with the award of the MBE in the New Year’s Honours List. It was particularly appropriate for him to return in Nigel Lashbrook’s final year as Headmaster, having previously been Guest of Honour in his first year as Headmaster. In fact, it was Dr Hill’s visit to Oakham in 2010 that inspired his own move to Rutland and his choice of Oakham School for his son’s secondary education.
Dr Hill spoke eloquently after dinner to the assembled company, and was evangelical about the benefits of singing. In a speech peppered with quotations and anecdotes, he told the memorable story of Sir Alex Ferguson discovering the playing of one of the very best teams he had ever seen, and immediately enthusing to his Manchester United squad about the amazing playing of Manchester’s renowned Hallé Orchestra. Dr Hill also challenged the pupils to always sing with a smile from within, to respond and persevere with the challenge of difficult new repertoire, and to step outside their comfort zone by occasionally sitting somewhere different in rehearsals and getting to know some other singers. He was even keen to encourage those destined for university or careers in London to consider joining his 180-strong Bach Choir, which remarkably has 100 singers under the age of 30.
As always, the evening was bookended by choral music. The full Chapel Choir sang Grace in a setting by William Mathias before the dinner, and the Chamber Choir entertained everyone with a choral arrangement of What shall we do with the drunken sailor? which was full of musical surprises. The final surprise was delivered by the Form 7 members of the Chapel Choir, who concluded the evening with their re-scripted performance of McFly’s It’s all about you, dedicated to the Director of Music.