The last major Chapel concert of the academic year on Friday 24 June presented a feast of colourful music designed to entertain a supportive audience.
The forthcoming music tour to Spain influenced many of the musical choices, with the orchestra engaging brilliantly with the exotic Ritual Fire Dance by Manuel de Falla that opened the concert. After this virtuoso start, the orchestra was joined by accomplished Form 7 soprano, Eliza Cohen Gregory, who sang exquisitely in Rodrigo’s song cycle Cuatro madrigales amatorios. Eliza’s understanding of the Spanish text came through wonderfully, contrasting the sorrowful opening two songs with the light-hearted pair that conclude the set. It was a real joy to see her revelling in the experience of performing alongside her peers in the orchestra.
The concert’s first half concluded with an exuberant early Haydn symphony, given a spirited and skilful performance by the Symphony Orchestra. The Director of Music made no exceptions for his young musicians in his choice of tempi, and they responded with vigour and technical control in the opening Allegro molto. Findlay Marsh was the accomplished ‘cello soloist in the slow movement, which led to a stately Minuet, featuring well-crafted solo flute playing in the contrasting Trio section. Haydn’s compositional prowess in the grand Finale was dramatically evident in the Symphony Orchestra’s performance, who relished every last detail of the ‘Credo’ cantus firmus theme and the explosive rhythmic syncopations. It was a rare treat to hear such accomplished playing of a Classical symphony by a school orchestra.
We returned from the interval to enjoy a sequence of short choral movements from the Chamber Choir, whose jazz-influenced programme brought further contrast in this colourful concert. In John Rutter’s jazz-infused Birthday Madrigals, they proved themselves more than equal to the challenging jazz harmonies and tricky Shakespeare texts, achieving a standard normally associated with experienced adult choirs. Their choral blend and the respective strength of the choir’s different voice parts enabled them to navigate this score with aplomb. Their final work – an a cappella arrangement of the instrumental 1970s standard, Birdland – was a real tour de force, full of driving bass parts, percussive effects and imitation of the work’s original instrumental lines. Congratulations to the Chamber Choir’s singers on this significant achievement.
The Symphony Orchestra returned to conclude the programme, calming the mood initially with a mature performance of Mendelssohn’s Nocturne from his incidental music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Featuring the rounded tone of the orchestra’s excellent horn section, there was much to commend in their refined interpretation. The colourful Spanish theme returned for their final work – brilliant orchestrations of Three Spanish Dances by Moszkowski – in which the strength of the whole ensemble was evident in their confident and characterful playing. The entire performance was a glowing testament to the strength of Oakham School’s talented instrumentalists – congratulations!
A recording of the concert can be viewed online at https://bit.ly/oakhammusiclive