Shrewsbury School has one of the most vibrant and active music departments in the country; this may best be illustrated by the fact that the annual Music and Arts booklet is an amazing 60 pages thick – a new record, I believe.
If you are living in London, however, it is quite far to travel to Shrewsbury, and thus it is fantastic when musicians from Shrewsbury visit us: as they did on 3rd February, performing at The Warehouse, home of the London Festival Orchestra.
The evening featured some of the best soloists and ensembles from Shrewsbury, and after hearing them it comes as no surprise that four groups from Shrewsbury are through to the semi finals of the Pro Corda National Chamber Music Competition. I wish them all the best at Abingdon in March!
The concert started with the Shrewsbury String Orchestra, conducted by David Joyce, playing a Serenade for Strings by Elgar. Their beautiful sound was strengthened by the superb acoustic in The Warehouse.
Next, Henry Kennedy impressed with a fantastic performance of Paule Maurice’s Tableau de Provence on the Saxophone.
Many of the evening’s music combined Strings and Wind; for example Prokofiev’s Overture on Hebrew Themes for Clarinet, String quartet and Piano. Dorit Hasselberg, Calvin Chan, Jonathan Cheng, Andrew Spicer, Awen Blandford and Galin Ganchev performed it beautifully, and they will play it again in the Pro Corda semi finals.
The first half was virtuously concluded on the Piano by Galin Ganchev, who many will have heard before in Shrewsbury. His flawless performance of preludes by Debussy and Rachmaninoff made it hard to believe you were listening to a 15 year old!
A short interval was a great opportunity to talk to some of the performers as well as other Salopians in London, and was followed by a Trio by Beethoven. Ross Pople [Director of the London Festival Orchestra], Cello, and his son Jake (SH 2007-2012), Clarinet, were accompanied by John Moore on the Piano. The musicians made even the most difficult sections sound effortless, with their three parts seemingly merging into one.
Jumping in history, we then heard a Saxophone quartet by contemporary composer Bob Mintzer, and featuring Ken Ma, Dominic Craven, William Dodson-Wells and Henry Kennedy. The quartet played with great enthusiasm, showing the adaptivity of the Saxophone and the breadth of music played in Shrewsbury.
Dorit Hasselberg, Clarinet, and Awen Blandford, Cello, had already played in an ensemble earlier, and were now joined by Allen Yu on the Piano, playing a beautiful Trio by Johannes Brahms. They too are in the Pro Corda semi finals, and as is the evening’s final ensemble.
The evening was concluded by Joshua Wong, Imogen Richardson, Henry Kennedy, Fiona Lau and Old Salopian Stephen Craigen, playing the Bb Quintet for Piano and Wind by Rimsky Korsakov: a fabulous piece which I particularly enjoyed in this rousing and colourful performance.
Music is most enjoyable when played in a group. It is remarkable to see how many outstanding ensembles there are in Shrewsbury, and with what excitement and enthusiasm they perform. Of course this wouldn’t be possible without all the amazing Music teachers, in particular Maria Eglington, David Joyce and John Moore. I can only hope that it won’t be too long until they visit us again in London.