It has been a busy but extremely fulfilling week, and one which has been truly inspiring.
Dominic Peckham spent the day at Monkton last Friday, and both senior and prep schools were transfixed by his dynamic and engaging style, as well as his moving account of the formation of the National Youth Choir of Kenya. The whole school was left in no doubt that singing brings people together in a way that little else does. In the afternoon he worked with four of Monkton’s choirs, including an improvisation workshop with our senior Chamber Choir which was unlike anything I’ve ever seen! He has opened our eyes and ears to new possibilities, and there was much talk of the National Youth Choir of Great Britain and the London A Cappella Festival. It was a genuine privilege to spend the day with such a fantastic musician and teacher.
On Wednesday the Genesis Choir gave their second public performance, at a fundraising event held at the Holburne Museum in Bath. The Garden Cafe has a vibrant acoustic and the choir was thrilled to sing in a venue which did so much to enhance their sound, and this helped their confidence hugely. We sang two songs – Singin’ in the Rain and Here comes the sun, both warmly received by our audience. I am so proud to be a part of this project, and to see how the confidence of each of the choir members has grown in the past six months is simply amazing. I don’t think I could have taken this on without the experience that I have gained working with The Choir who can’t sing at Monkton.
The following day our Chapel Choir sang evensong at Bath Abbey, the first time we’ve done this since I’ve been at Monkton. Anglican chant is not standard repertoire for the average Monktonian but they did a wonderful job with the psalm, as well as Dyson’s Mag & Nunc in F and the anthem Love Divine set by Howard Goodall, which we had worked on with Dominic a few days before. This will have been the first ever experience of choral evensong for many in the choir, and they really rose to the occasion.
On Friday we were visited by Joseph Fort, Director of Choral Music at King’s College, London, who came to hear a few of our sixth formers sing before heading off to Prior Park to work with their Chapel Choir. In the evening we took several of our pupils to hear them perform Rachmaninov’s All Night Vigil. As well as being sublime music, it was great for our students to see and hear a real live university choir!
Yesterday, a Saturday ‘Open Door morning’ with numerous families visiting the school, the Chamber Choir had a workshop with Francis Faux and the Noctis Chamber Choir. As well as singing to each other (we performed The King’s Singer’s I’m a train!) we rehearsed pieces by Morley and Ola Gjeilo together, and this culminated in the performance of the Gjeilo piece in whole school chapel at the end of the morning. So thrilling for us to join up with such a fine choir, and although I say so myself, I thought we sounded fantastic!
Looking back, I’m not sure I planned a week like this – several of these events were rescheduled, so it is largely coincidence that they all came together in such a short space of time. But it has made me reflect on how important it is to connect our pupils up with the outside world. We can work hard with them in choirs in school, but it is seeing the likes of Dominic and Francis in action, and aspiring one day to be in NYCGB, a university choir or a local chamber choir, which will really fire them up for the future.