Ensembles Gala Concert

Monday 22nd May 2023

The Orchestral and Ensembles Gala Concert is always a jewel in the crown of the Music Department calendar, and this year was no exception. To a packed Memorial Hall, the Percussion Ensemble, Brasser, Chamber Orchestra, and Symphony Orchestra performed an outstanding programme of exciting works, which included the opportunity for many of our most talented musicians to perform the solo parts of concertos.

Opening the concert, the Percussion Ensemble played Beck’s The Prevailing 8th Note, with dynamic accents and expressive and explosive hits. This challenging work explored various permutations of the ‘quaver’, with some fiery improvisations to boot! Brasser followed, with two iconic film hits. Star Wars Main Theme by Williams contained as much drama and impact as the entire Star Wars saga, with conductor Mr Arkwright coaxing subtle warmth and luxury out of the slower sections. The Mission Impossible Theme by Schifrin followed, with its iconic Dash-Dash-Dot-Dot rhythmic motif driving forward the excitement and intensity of the music. To conclude the first half of the concert, and the performance by Brasser, a piece that has become somewhat a tradition in this gala concert – The Final Countdown is an absolute classic, and was a vibrant way to end the Brasser programme.

After a moment to reset the stage, the Chamber Orchestra treated us to three well-programmed and contrasting pieces. Up first was Palladio by the Welsh jazz oboist and composer, Karl Jenkins: the ensemble defined neo-baroque in their performance, with an excellent blend of sound and well-shaped dynamics. Emily C then joined the Chamber Orchestra on stage, performing movements three and four of Bloch’s Suite Modale. Mrs Stagg was able to charm a beautiful colour from the orchestra with depth and warmth, allowing the flute solo to float, sparkling lyrically over the top. Concluding the Chamber Orchestra’s performance was a performance of Bach’s Concerto for two violins in D Minor BWV 1043. It was a shame to only hear the final movement as this was an exceptional treat for the audience – the virtuosic solo lines cascaded rhythmically in close imitative counterpoint, whilst the orchestra provided the relenting momentum of Bach’s harmonic language. Poppy M and Allegra H played almost as duo seraphim in deep conversation with one another, with exemplary contact and connection between their respective musical lines.

Concluding the concert was the Symphony Orchestra. In their first of two pieces, the orchestra was joined by Bella B , who delivered a sublime and beautifully poised performance of Lehár’s Vilja Leid from ‘The Merry Widow’. Her voice carried delightfully over the orchestra, which Mr Dukes crafted into a stunning accompaniment, always in support of the soloist. The highlight of this performance was Bella’s final top B, which, full of grace and control, resounded through the concert hall to rapturous applause. Smetena’s Vltava closed this evening’s concert, telling the tale of a journey down the longest river in the Czech Republic. The orchestra coloured this magnificent journey with subtle pizzicato strings and delicate flute playing in the opening, depicting the early trickle of the source of the river, all the way through to the swirling and tumbling rapids of St John, where the orchestra found more intensity in their playing to match the drama of this programmatic depiction. The piece concludes at a castle in Vyšegrad, before we gently drift away down the river in the distance, which was illustrated by the most exquisite diminuendo.

The concert was not only a celebration of the hard work and dedication all musicians at Marlborough College devote to their music-making, but a chance for us to wish all our Upper Sixth musicians well in their final concert as a pupil at Marlborough. With red rose buttonholes worn on their final performance, our outgoing Upper Sixth leave behind a musical legacy, and endless memories of outstanding music-making.

Adam Meehan-Staines
Director of Chapel Music

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