Nearly 200 musicians and the entire Form 3 travelled to Town Hall Birmingham on Sunday 26 February to give the school’s annual Gala Concert. In front of a large and supportive audience, Oakham’s musicians excelled in the spectacular surroundings performing a remarkably varied sequence of 20th and 21st Century music.
The first half of the concert featured three instrumental ensembles – Concert Band, Chamber Orchestra and Symphony Orchestra - setting the tone of the evening, and featuring two outstanding soloists. Under the dynamic direction of Keith Slade (Head of Woodwind), the Concert Band opened with John Adams’ exhilarating Short Ride in a Fast Machine, full of vivid colours and vigorous rhythmic playing. Form 7 music scholar Dominic Hill then joined them to perform the first movement of Gregson’s Tuba Concerto, which was played with virtuosity and flair as he demonstrated the huge range of his instrument. The Chamber Orchestra followed under the energetic direction of Martin Cropper (Head of Strings). They revelled in the varied challenges of Britten’s not-at-all Simple Symphony, filling the large auditorium with a rich sound and plenty of playful pizzicato.
The Symphony Orchestra completed the first half, with Director of Music Peter Davis leading them through the jazz-filled challenges of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Their professionalism and stunning playing were a terrific support to the virtuoso soloist, Morgan, whose fantastic command of the solo piano part was rightly rewarded with a standing ovation by the audience.
The second half of the concert was given over to a sequence of exciting music for choir with brass, organ and percussion. Two works by Old Oakhamian composer, Paul Spicer, began the sequence, celebrating A shared singing with the massed voices of Form 3 and the Chapel Choir, before the choir gave a beautiful performance of the commissioned motet, A Living Stone. Two works by Esenvalds demonstrated the vocal sonorities of both the Chapel Choir (Trinity Te Deum) and Chamber Choir (Only in sleep), with the latter featuring Form 5 soprano soloist, Lily McNeill. To conclude, John Rutter’s exuberant setting of the Gloria raised the roof, with the vitality of the professional brass ensemble more than matched by the festive singing of the full Chapel Choir and soloist. An outstanding conclusion to a sensational concert, celebrating the extraordinary quality of Oakham’s music.