This year’s concert did not fail to disappoint, with a feast of music on offer making this a night to remember!
Playing to a packed Alington Hall, Jasper Heath (O) immediately set a high bar with a toe-tappingly cool rendition of The Pink Panther. Jasper was the first of four saxophonists to perform, which will have been welcome news to Head of Woodwind Maria McKenzie who will no doubt be delighted to welcome such a talented quartet into her impressive sax group. Harry Webster (Rb) impressed with his version of Tango Till You Drop, which was well received by audience members missing their Saturday night fix of Strictly Come Dancing, whilst Elliot Inger (Rb) tackled the extraordinarily complex Jazz Sonata by Lawson Lunde. Later in the programme we were treated to a Pink Panther encore with the piece also chosen by William Singleton (R), providing the audience with a fascinating insight into different styles and interpretations of the same piece.
More jazz was offered up by Michael Lorente Shyllon (PH), who bravely tackled an unaccompanied jazz solo, whilst fellow former Prestfelde pupil Guy Davis (Rb) got the toes tapping again with the Big Band swing favourite Chatanooga Choo Choo. Further brass expertise came from both Edward Pickersgill (R), whose Trumpet Voluntary by John Stanley was executed with aplomb, and from Rachel Ellis (M), the sole horn player of the evening, whose performance on the night suggests that she will be a stalwart in the School Symphony Orchestra before long.
Three string players made their Salopian debut. The first was Sapna Chudasama (G), whose Air for Cello by JS Bach I had in fact previously enjoyed the pleasure of hearing whilst attending a concert at her former school, Pembroke House in Kenya. It was a further joy to hear for the first time Ethan Cunningham-Walker (R), who provided a rich sound on his viola and a rousing finale to the 'Waltz’ from Tchaikowsky’s The Sleeping Beauty. Similar vigour and poise was seen from Jackie Chan (Rt), who commanded the stage and was the very picture of composure as he wowed the audience with Mozart’s Concerto in G Major, written when the composer was just 19 years old. Now there’s something to aim for whilst at Shrewsbury…
The flute section were equally well represented and here, too, Shrewsbury’s orchestra look set to enjoy some rich talent coming through. Oscar Edmondson (PH) is certainly a young musician to watch, and his hauntingly beautiful rendition of Andy Scott’s piece And Everything Was Still will live long in the memory. Oscar is in fine company, with fellow flautist Phoebe Carter (EDH) treating the ethereal undulations of Rutter’s melodies in his ‘Prelude’ from Suite Antique with considerable sophistication and sensitivity. Joyce Li (M) deserves equal praise as an accomplished flautist in her own right and she should be commended for her flawless performance of JS Bach’s Sonata for Flute in E Minor. Also worthy of commendation is Samuel Wan (Ch), who follows in a long line of fine clarinettists at Shrewsbury. Judging by his performance of Standford’s Intermezzo No 3, that rich tradition looks to be in good health for years to come.
So the Orchestra certainly looks to be receiving a significant injection of talent in the coming years, but we will also no doubt hear more from a talented trio of new pianists who provided considerable variety in their choice of pieces and shone in equal measure. Irina Liniger (G) chose the well-known Ancora by film composer Ludovico Einaudi which, impressively, she played from memory. In contrast, Arthur Hope-Barton (I) transported us back to the Romantic era with a sublime and mature treatment of Chopin’s Nocturne in Bb Minor, a piece of astonishing difficulty for such a young pianist, all the more remarkable given that this is not his main instrument. (He is widely regarded as one of the most talented young organists in the country.) Further praise should be heaped upon Sherry Shi (EDH), who provided us with the self-penned piece Time That Has Passed By, a world première no less! I am reliably informed by Sherry that this piece – and others – are available for viewing on YouTube. (I said I’d give her a plug…)
Finally, but by no means least, we were treated to a rich variety of songs from five of the performers, all of whom we will no doubt enjoy hearing more from, whether in Chapel Choir, school musicals or Open Mic nights. Joining the Fourth Form from St Peter’s School, York, Tabitha Winkley (G) sang a beautiful rendition of 'Far From the Home I Love' from Fiddler on the Roof, whilst Kate Woodman (M) also dipped into the Musicals repertoire with a performance of ‘Popular’ from Wicked that was a real treat. With experience of the West End stage already, no doubt Kate will be eager to perform on the Ashton stage in due course.
Folksongs with literary inspiration were provided by Annabel Thompstone (EDH), whose mellifluous style was well suited to Alexander L’Estrange’s setting to music of Tennyson’s poem Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal. Reuben Lindsay-Bowen (Rb) sang Down by the Sally Gardens by WB Yeats and set to music by Rebecca Clarke, his rich baritone voice suggestive that this is an emerging talent who we will hear more from. The same I hope will be true for Branton Zhao (R), whose version of Justin Bieber’s Love Yourself brought the house down and was a firm favourite on the night. Preceding his performance with the suggestion “sing along if you know it”, many amongst the audience (both young and less young) took him up on that invitation.
Once again this was a wonderful celebration of the emerging talents joining the School, and Director of Music John Moore was keen to note at the end of the evening that, on the basis of this group of talented individuals, music at Shrewsbury will be in very good health indeed for many years to come.
Thanks go to all performers and to Mr Moore, Mr Mason and Mr Joyce for rehearsing the pupils and accompaniment on the night.
Peter Middleton, Deputy Head (Co-Curricular)
with thanks to Dr Richard Case for the photographs