Oundle and RCM maintain unique link

The partnership between co-educational school Oundle and the Royal College of Music was celebrated at a recent concert

Four generations of musicians came together in Oundle School’s Chapel on January 16 for a massed strings concert.

Violinist and music scholar, Serena Shah (17) commented: “With the help of our teachers (members of the first generation of music making), our friends from the Royal College of Music String Band (members of the second generation) and the string players of Oundle (ranging from Year 7 to Sixth Form, making up the third generation), the concert opened with Handel’s Larghetto from Concerto Grosso No. 12.”

Following a rendition of the final two movements of the Serenade for Strings Op. 48 by Tchaikovsky, the stage was taken by the Year 2 children of Laxton Junior School (the youngest generation of musicians!). They performed four short pieces in which they demonstrated their talent and enthusiasm for playing their chosen string instrument, opening with Trolls, Orcs and Goblins which took the audience on a journey to Alton Towers, and finishing in New York with the Manhattan Blues.

Serena added: “For those children, it must have been a nerve wracking and an adrenaline filled experience, but for all of the rest of us, including our parents in the audience, it reminded us how years ago, we started off in exactly the same position on the excellent strings’ programme at LJS. This moment was one of the highlights of the whole evening as it showed every individual musician how far he or she has come with their instrument, how much they have achieved as a musician and a performer, and most importantly how much they enjoy and love music.”

The final piece of the first half of the concert was Elgar’s Sospiri, which not only showed off Oundle’s talented string players, but also the elegant playing of one of Oundle’s harpists and one of its organists. This was conducted by Mark Messenger, Head of Strings at RCM, and the difficulty and challenges of the piece’s flexible tempo was concealed by his clear and effective leadership.

After a short interval, the RCM String Band dazzled the audience with, in Mark Messenger’s words, “two miserable pieces”. The first was a beautiful performance of Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten by Arvo Pärt; it was easy to overlook that these Royal College Musicians were only 18 and 19 years old.

Oundle’s director of music, Quentin Thomas: “The final piece of the concert was Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony, introduced and put into its grim historical context superbly by Mark Messenger. The contrast of the disturbingly powerful with the uncomfortable peace in this work served as an excellent finale to a very memorable and fine concert; one that all four generations of musicians will remember for many years to come.”

Background on the partnership between Oundle School and the Royal College of Music

In January 2012, Oundle School entered into a unique partnership arrangement with the Royal College of Music, whereby pupils from the school gain the experience of working with professors and students from the College, both in Oundle and London.

The prime movers behind this arrangement were Mark Messenger, Head of Strings at the Royal College of Music, and Angus Gibbon, Head of Strings at Oundle School.

The memorandum of understanding between the two institutions was signed on Friday 13January by headmaster Charles Bush and Stephen Johns, artistic director of the Royal College of Music.

Pupils from Oundle are invited to various masterclasses and workshops at RCM and highlights include regular visits from Professors and Heads of Departments of the RCM in the form of masterclasses and judging of the School’s annual Hepburn Music Competition. Oundle School Orchestras and Ensembles give concerts in the Amaryllis Fleming Concert Hall, Royal College of Music, London.



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