Southbank Sinfonia Concert

Monday 6th March 2023

The collaboration of our instrumental groups with the Southbank Sinfonia is one of the Music Department’s highlights of the year and this year’s side-by-side concert on Saturday 4th March was no exception. The groups had been rehearsing for the two previous days alongside one-to-one teaching by members of the Sinfonia. It was a real thrill to hear snippets of conversation in the Henry Hony Centre corridor comparing the exciting and enlightening times that the pupils had enjoyed.

The concert opened with Brasser who played the wind band classic – Philip Sparke’s Fanfare, Romance and Finale. The brass made their mark in a thundering fanfare before the woodwind lured us with their dulcet tones in the Romance. The complex and exhilarating Finale called on all members of the band to be on full alert and there were also plenty of solo moments for individuals to shine.

There could be no greater contrast than the sheer beauty of Shostakovich’s most Romantic piece – the slow movement to his Piano Concerto No. 2 in F. Oli R took the seat at the piano and indulged us with his beautiful tone, seamless legato and subtle rubato. He plays with such poise and the exquisite tenderness of the performance certainly brought tears to my eyes!

Chamber Orchestra continued with various cues from Herrmann’s score for Hitchcock’s classic film Psycho. Surely this must be one of the most renowned scores with its screeching string chords in the murder scene and the mysterious parallel 7ths in The City. This is technically challenging music but was delivered with apparent ease and plenty of atmosphere. The mood was helped enormously by the text, read beautifully by Zac C. In my role as Head of Academic Music, I was thrilled to see so many of my pupils performing one of the A level set works. Getting music ‘under the fingers’ must surely be the best way to truly understand and appreciate a work.

Poppy M has delighted us with her virtuosity and technical wizardry for many years now and her performance this evening was a classy and exciting display. She will move on to the Royal Academy in September and we will all look forward to observing her progress. Mendelssohn’s final movement sparkles with energy and wit, seeming to mirror Poppy’s very own vivacious personality (which we will miss)!

Bringing the programme to a close was the quirky and easily accessible Suite for Variety Stage Orchestra by Shostakovich. Alongside Stravinsky, Shostakovich was known as a bit of a chameleon when composing. Even in this suite, he explores many different styles, all of which allow various orchestral soloists and groups to come to the fore. This was a confident display from all areas of the orchestra and special mention should go to both the percussion and woodwind sections for their technical brilliance. Quite a splendid display!

Special thanks must be given to the three conductors, Alex Arkwright, Sara Stagg and Philip Dukes, alongside the leaders of the ensembles, Oli R, Poppy M and Allegra H. Last but not least, we thank this years’ Southbank Sinfonia team and look forward to a new and uplifting collaboration a year from now.

Clare Toomer
Head of Academic Music

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