This is a new scheme designed to enable young instrumental players to experience first-hand the excitement and fun of playing a full orchestra, and also to have a go at repertoire which individually they may struggle with, but which, when in the company of other players, they can find the courage and ability to tackle.
This was first of three Symphonic Sundays planned this year, and so there was much excitement and anticipation as our young players arrived to register and find their way into rehearsals. After unpacking their instruments, they all quickly settled down into an hour of sectionals, divided into Wind, Brass, Percussion and Upper & Lower Strings led by key members of the Shrewsbury School Music Faculty.
With the prospect of performing the three chosen pieces just a little more than two hours later, learning the notes was an integral part of the afternoon. After a quick break of biscuits and juice the real fun began with the full orchestra playing together for the first time.
Beginning with the final movement of the famous Fifth Symphony by Beethoven, which gave all the children the opportunity to play a key piece of orchestral repertoire, we moved into the Farandole dance from L’Arlesienne by Bizet. This pushed some of the wind players, playing key signatures of up to five sharps! We finished with the theme from The Magnificent Seven, which despite having some challenging rhythms, was definitely a highlight for most!
As the orchestra was so large in number, the informal performance at 4.30pm to round off the afternoon was given to parents and supporters as they stood lining the stairs of the Critchley Auditorium in the Maidment Building, or squeezed onto the balcony and even around the orchestra. It really was standing room only!
The standard reached in just two hours or so of work was excellent, and there was a real sense of enthusiasm from the musicians as a whole, which demonstrated what potential this project has. We are delighted that so many young musicians came to experience our first Symphonic Sunday at Shrewsbury School, and we hope they are excited for the next course on Sunday 12th January 2020.
Some of the lovely feedback we received from parents:
"My daughter thoroughly enjoyed the first Symphonic Sunday session, thank you very much! She loved the fact that it was a full Symphony Orchestra and she loved the fact that John attempted such ambitious repetoire. She said that the time went very quickly and she could have happy rehearsed for longer(!) I have never heard her say that before."
"…. really enjoyed it. They have been attending ensembles for a long time but those are quite small affairs. It was lovely for them to be able to take part in a large orchestra."
"You worked wonders with them in such a short time and it was amazing for him to feel part of such a big orchestra."
"It was a wonderful experience for her to play with a range of other musicians that she doesn't normally get. Unfortunately at her school there is no orchestra... I am very grateful to yourself, the other teachers and Shrewsbury School for giving up your Sunday afternoon and allowing her the opportunity."
More details about Shrewsbury Sundays and an online application form are published in the Music section of the School website: Symphonic Sundays
Maria McKenzie and John Moore