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Music in our Senior School & Sixth Form

Music in our Senior School & Sixth Form

As always, the Senior School & Sixth Form Music department enjoyed a busy and exciting Autumn Term, full of competitions, concerts and workshops!  

Choral corkshop and concert with Appollo5 

In October we were delighted to be invited to take some of our talented young singers in Years 7 and 8 to a choral workshop led by professional vocal group Apollo5

The professional musicians worked with our girls, and students from other local schools, to produce a stunning array of songs, from traditional African to contemporary, which were woven into a tapestry of music enhanced by electric viola and video. Paul Smith, composer and animateur with VOCES8, was an inspirational vocal leader throughout the day, and the choir had great fun exploring their voices while working hard to prepare for the public performance in the evening.

Our students were certainly inspired by Apollo5, who impressed us all with their beautiful a capella renditions of a huge range of music, from renaissance polyphony to popular classics. 

St Mary’s Young Pianist of the Year and Young Musician of the Year Competitions 

At the end of October and start of November we welcomed back St Mary's alumna Jessica Norton. Jessica is a choral practitioner, soprano and teacher based in Central London. She is currently Musical Director of the London Concord Singers, East London Chorus and Henley Youth Choir, having recently finished working with the London Orpheus Choir.

Jessica came to adjudicate St Mary's annual music competitions: the Young Pianist of the Year and Young Musician of the Year – two events which celebrate the wealth of musical talent from across our school. 

Now in its ninth year, the piano competition featured students from Years 6 to 13 performing a range of repertoire, from Baroque to Modern, each to a very high standard.  

The Intermediate Class Shield was awarded to Year 8 student Cecilia V.-C. for a polished performance of Scherzo in B flat by Schubert.  

The standard in the advanced class was incredibly high and Jessica had a very tough decision to make. The Agnes Heron Memorial Cup (awarded annually to the girl in the Advanced Class who give the outstanding piano performance of the evening) was awarded to Annabelle B. (Year 13 Music Scholar currently studying A Level Music alongside History, French and Mandarin Chinese), for her sensitive and refined performance of Mozart’s Adagio in B minor, KV. 540

Jessica returned to judge the Young Musician competition, and once again had some very difficult decisions to make. The standard of musicianship was extremely high, and Jessica awarded special commendations to the girls who she felt had given exceptional performances – Margaret P. (voice) and Maryam G. (voice and violin).

St Mary's Young Musician of the Year 2020 was Issy H. (cello) who gave a spell-binding performance of Fauré’s Élégie, Op. 24. Our Director of Music, Sonia Gears, said: 

We were so delighted to welcome back Jessica to join us to adjudicate our Music competitions. Our department prides itself on the girls’ commitment to music-making and students’ high levels of musicianship, and it was great for us that Jessica was able to witness this. I felt immensely proud of all the performers.

Congratulations to all who were involved in this prestigious event. 

Christmas Concert 

Once again, over a quarter of Senior School students took part in the spectacular Christmas concert held at Cambridge University's impressive West Road Concert Hall on 9 December, bringing festive cheer to a warm and welcoming audience.

Students treated the audience to a feast of diverse repertoire, from classical favourites such as Dvořák’s Slavonic Dance No.8 by the senior orchestra, to jazz standards such as The Lady Is A Tramp and Minnie The Moocher.

Our chamber choir, Allegro, entranced the audience with spine-tingling renditions of John Tavener’s The Lamb, and a new setting of the carol This Endris Night by Sarah Quartel. Fresh from their recent performances in the Young Musician Competition, Gerri S. playing Rachmaninoff’s Fantasia Opus. 3, No. 1, and Maryam G. singing Mozart’s Agnus Dei, gave outstanding solo performances, inspiring all the budding musicians in the audience, both young and old!                                          

Spring Term 

Spring Term was equally as busy. GCSE and A Level recitals were rehearsed and recorded, composing coursework completed and the first of our annual ABRSM Examination visits was successfully undertaken. 

Music Commitment Colours were awarded and, much earlier than anticipated, the Quintus Benziger Trophy, awarded annually at Prize Giving to an outstanding St Mary’s musician who has given so much of their time, energy, expertise and enthusiasm over the years, was awarded to Annabelle B., our out-going Music Captain.

Read about Annabelle's experience of being a St Mary's musician

Virtual Prize Giving 2020

The Music Department would like to thank ...

As sadly there is no Summer Concert 2020, we would like to take this opportunity to say a couple of big thank yous.

The first big thank you is to all of our musicians leaving us at the end of the summer term, especially those in Year 13, many of whom have performed in our ensembles since joining in Year 7, and some of whom were playing in St Mary's music groups even before that in the Junior School.

Thank you to all of you for your enthusiasm, musicianship and energy over the years – the Music department really is one big happy family and you will be so missed in September. Keep on playing and singing! 

The second big thank you is to Charles Berthon. In the Summer Term of 2019, we were absolutely delighted to welcome Charles into the Music department to cover Mrs Fisher’s maternity leave. He immediately immersed himself in the musical life of the school, assisting in the smooth running of a very busy extra-curricular programme. 

Conducting Year 7 Choir, training orchestra, supporting Cantore and senior orchestra, Mr Berthon became a key member of our team, and it wasn’t long before he was coaching his own new string chamber ensemble and leading the department’s inaugural Music Technology club, as well as donning his dancing shoes as one of the ‘Diamond Geezers’ performing with the school’s Jazz Band! 

Charles quickly made himself invaluable as a member of the liturgical music group and his beautiful, serene and reflective violin playing greatly enhanced our worship. The Music department has really valued Charles’ many musical contributions over the past year and, in particular, has appreciated his warmth, positivity and sense of humour. We look forward to staying in touch with Charles and wish him all the best for the future.

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