Review by Director of Music John Moore, with many thanks to David Wheeler for the photographs.
It would be entirely wrong of any review to draw comparisons with any other years, but suffice to say that this year’s concert maintained the high standards established in previous years, and gave a large and appreciative audience some real highlights to treasure as well.
What is a universal truth about the occasion every year, though, is that we as a school can lay little claim to what is performed by way of having taught or coached the performers. We have known most of them for only two full weeks, so their performances do truly reflect the teaching and care given to every single performer by their previous schools and teachers, as well as the support and nurture that parents have undoubtedly provided as well. We are blessed as a senior school with the talent that comes here, and it is so heartening to see so many entrants arrive with a love for and real ability in music.
The concert began with a stunning rendition of the first movement of Richard Strauss’ First Horn Concerto played by Edward Pryce. Edward is also an accomplished Saxophonist and joined our trip to Hong Kong last October when still a pupil at Shrewsbury High School Prep. He was followed by a confident rendition of the Contest Solo by Paul Harvey played on Alto Saxophone by Oliver Parton, who joins us from Prestfelde.
Wind players featured strongly in the concert, and next up was Hugo Rees-Pullman from Packwood Haugh, who played the beautiful Fantasy piece by Nielsen with real authority. Emily Windsor-Clive then followed this with an enchanting rendition of the theme from The Young Prince. Emily was formerly at The Elms. Also from The Elms was James McKinnon, who gave a bravura rendition of Darth Vader’s March from Star Wars, with all the requisite menace and dark tone needed for this well- known piece.
The famous Tambourin by Gossec received a lovely rhythmical performance from Clodagh Prentice, who comes to us from Lichfield Cathedral School, a school we have had many links with over the years. Following Clodagh was Angel Lai, who sang exquisitely in a rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Harold Arlen, and she was followed by Susanna Pearce, fresh from Packwood Haugh, who performed a soulful ballad, Cry Me a River with great confidence and poise. Reuben Patten, previously from Terra Nova, then entranced the audience with his performance of the theme from Ladies in Lavender on the violin.
It’s not very often that we get budding composers in the New Entrants’ Concert, but that is precisely what we got next in the form of Ivo Winkley. Ivo played one of his own compositions, a beautiful waltz-like piano solo which conjured up shades of Chopin, Satie and Einaudi, but above all Ivo’s own style and sound world. He is a composer to look out for in the future!
Luke Williams has joined Shrewsbury from King’s Chester, and is proving to be a really interesting performer on the piano. His controlled, sonorous rendition of the first movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata held the audience spellbound. This spell was further held by Lucy Mielczarek in a wonderful performance of Haydn’s delightful song-setting, Piercing Eyes. Lucy comes to us from Packwood Haugh.
Sometimes a performance just hits one between the eyes with its sheer impact, and that’s exactly what Oliver Cool did next with his virtuosic and passionate rendition of the last movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata for piano. This was brave, bold and big playing, and we can only have high hopes for some epic performances from Oliver in the future based on what we heard. Prestfelde will miss him and several others, I’m sure.
Max Wheeler, from Abberley Hall, is a most exciting and talented young violinist with considerable achievements already to his name. His performance of the first movement of Bach’s Concerto for Violin in A Minor was poised, stylish and mature. He is another person to look out for as he makes his musical way through Shrewsbury, as too is Tom Kelly, who comes to us from the British School in Muscat. Tom’s piano playing is again assured, musical and full of finesse, and his rendition of Selling Sundry Goods was a wonderful foil to Max’s Bach.
James Gibbon from Prestfelde is a wonderful singer and communicator, and The Impossible Dream sounded entirely possible in James’ confident and mature performance, with a great bravura last note! Bravura is certainly the way to describe our next performer, Billy Gardiner, formerly of The Elms, who has a unique ability to communicate a song in such a personal and heartfelt way, accompanying himself on the piano.
Rose Farquharson from Prestfelde is a fine Horn player but, like a lot of the performers in the concert, is multi-talented, and so chose to sing on this occasion. Her performance of The Fools who Dream, from the film La La Land, was just perfection.
This sense of vocal perfection was maintained in the next performer’s beautiful interpretation of On My Own from Les Misérables. Anna Mallett from The Minster School, York, gave the song everything, and the audience were visibly moved by her singing, as they were too then by Hattie Attwood from Cundall Manor who performed A Change in Me so sympathetically and with such real style.
Sandy Brownsmith, who has joined the School from St Anthony’s School then gave the audience a really classic piece of advanced cello repertoire in the form of the brooding, beautiful Elégie by Gabriel Fauré; a mature and controlled performance. Hal Cowan then lightened the mood with the eloquent and attractive Aria by Eugene Bozza on Alto Saxophone, which he played just so well. Hal comes to us from Packwood Haugh.
Jeff Li, who was at Sunningdale prior to Shrewsbury, is a wonderfully confident Saxophone player, and his Tango Till You Drop captured the rhythmical snap of this lovely composition by Richard Kershaw. With Saxophone still on the menu, Max Darke from Prestfelde blew the audience away with his quite stunning rendition of Dreams of You by Dave McGarry, accompanied by his Saxophone Teacher, Shrewsbury’s Assistant Director of Music, Maria McKenzie.
The lengthy programme then built to a terrific climax with the last three performers all presenting challenging and wonderfully performed repertoire. First up was Natalia Toms, from Newport Girls’ High School, whose performance of the first movement of Poulenc’s Flute Sonata was entrancing, poised and polished.
Also a flute player, Chester Yuen has joined us from Po Leung Kuk Choi Kai Yau School in Hong Kong, and his interpretation and performance of the presto from CPE Bach’s Hamburger Sonata was a tour de force.
It fell to Ethan Poon to finish the concert, and he did not disappoint. Coming from West Island School in Hong Kong, Ethan played the Praeludium and Allegro by Fritz Kreisler, an intensely demanding piece, with style, flair and an evidently virtuosic technique.
Bravo to all performers, and to all accompanists, especially Mr Skipper, Mr Wilson, who are also new entrants this year, and Mr Joyce. It was a wonderful, memorable concert that will be long treasured by those lucky enough to have been there.