School ensembles take to the stage in Music at Millfield concert

Millfield’s musicians took to the stage in our second ensemble showcase of the year, Music at Millfield. The concert celebrates the hard work and dedication our students have shown throughout the year towards their collaborative music making endeavours, and for many of them this was their last major ensemble concert of the academic year. All of our major ensembles performed, showing the breadth of talent across our student body and the diversity of music opportunities on offer.

Orchestral Brass opened the evening performing Fanfare for the Common Man by Aaron Copland, conducted by Mr Clive Hughes. This epic fanfare, accompanied by crashing cymbals, was a striking opening and kicked the evening off with great energy. Orchestral Brass then played Echoes of Harlem by Jim Parker, conducted by Mr Jeremy Little, bringing a cheeky and vivacious energy to the room.  

Next was Percussion Ensemble who performed Some Uptown Hip Hop written by Arthur Lipner, directed by Mr Jeremy Little, who also played with the ensemble. This fun piece was enhanced by the Latin percussion instruments used, which created a great contrast with the brass which had come before.  

The first vocal ensemble of the evening was Voces, our junior choir. The choir sang Fields of Gold, originally composed by Sting and made famous by Eva Cassidy. This arrangement highlights the ensemble capacity of this choir with beautiful melodic lines and stunning harmonies communicating the beauty and nostalgia of the song. The ensemble was conducted by Miss Sarah Graves.  

Next was String Orchestra, who performed both the Adagio and Allegro from Handel’s Organ Concerto Op.7, No.4; a highly anticipated performance as Director of Music, Mr Matthew Cook, was performing on the organ for the first time in over 6 years. The solemn opening movement was incredibly moving with beautiful lyricism in the cellos, with solos by Hamish and Toby. This was contrasted with a lively final movement, exuding feelings of joy. The movement also highlighted Matthew Cook’s excellent playing ability and finger dexterity.  

The final performance in the first half was Jazz Band, directed by Miss Claire Rose. The ensemble opened with Garland’s In The Mood arranged by Michael Sweeney, a romantic and fun piece that transported the audience back to the 20th century at the height of big Band music. As always, the performance was accompanied by choreography within the brass section. In the Mood also highlighted some of our fantastic jazz players: Grace and Billy on the sax, Rhys on the guitar, Alex on drums, and Charlie and Felix on trumpet. Jazz Band’s second performance of the night was The Pink Panther composed by Mancini and arranged by Mike Lewis. The addition of sunglasses worn by the whole ensemble added some flair, and cool finger clicks opened the piece with style.  

Opening the second half of the concert was Millfield Orchestra, performing the Andantino from Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.4, conducted and directed by Mr Clive Hughes. Felix’s opening oboe solo was haunting and incredibly atmospheric, setting the mood for the rest of the movement. This beautiful melancholy continued, enhanced by the rich sound of the full orchestra, highlighting the beauty and creativity of Tchaikovsky’s writing.  

Following Orchestra was Symphonic Winds, directed by Mrs Kirsty Barry. They performed Tribute to Count Basie arranged by John Moss, who combined some of the Count Basie’s most well- known tunes and signature musical features, such as his classic big band ending. Symphonic Winds communicated changes of mood and texture incredibly well, and a fantastic solo by Felix helped to create a calm, serene mood before an upbeat, fun finish to the piece.  

Next in the second half was Augmented 6ths, Millfield’s acapella close harmony group, who performed Tears for Fears’ song Mad World, inspired by the Pentatonix cover and arranged by Miss Claire Rose. The ensemble created a moody atmosphere with a strong use of vocal percussion to enhance the accompanying melodic lines whilst creating apt contrast, climaxing with a luscious forte chord before coming back down to finish leaving a chill in the room.  

The penultimate performance of the evening was another percussion piece, our Striking Sounds group. This group, directed by Mr Jeremy Little performed Ghanaia by Mathias Schmidt, a piece inspired by the energy and beauty of African music. The energy the group produced was infectious and showcased the technical skills of the performers.

To end the concert, Camerata, directed by Mr Matthew Cook, performed three songs. First, Upon Your Heart, composed by Eleanor Daley, a piece which is talks about the power of love, both romantically and religiously. The Tutti sections were contrasted by just the upper voices singing, which created a beautiful dialogue which then came back together for a soaring end to the work. Camerata then performed Blackbird, originally written by the Beatles, and arranged for the King’s Singers by Runswick. This acapella version of a classic song is effective in its simplicity, utilising different vocal techniques and vocal percussion to add to its texture. The third piece was Sleep by Eric Whitacre. This hauntingly beautiful piece uses close harmony and dissonance to create an ever-unfolding atmosphere of disturbed peace. The piece culminates in a soaring climax in 8-part harmony, which then fades away. While an unusual end to a concert, it was incredibly effective and left the whole room speechless.  

The whole evening was a success and truly showcased the wealth of talent within the Millfield Music School.

View the full photo album from the evening here.

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