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Wychwood Weekly

Music Review 2017-18

5th July 2018

Once again, we have enjoyed a successful year in the music department. In the Michaelmas term, our focus was on the Performing Arts Evening, performances for Open Morning and on the Carol Service. Our choir and Remove returned to Green Gates nursing home in December to perform for the residents, and I was particularly proud of them this year as they rose splendidly to the challenge of performing without a conductor as I was unable to attend the afternoon.

Our organ teacher came in during the Michaelmas term and gave an inspiring talk and organ recital to the girls in the Lower School. As a result of this, I took up the organ, and have been learning all year. Practice has been going well and I have been lucky enough to have some of my lessons at University Church, where the organ is superb.

In January, the girls studying GCSE music went to a conference in London in preparation for their listening examination and coursework. It was an informative day, and a great chance for our students to meet a wide variety of teenagers from other schools who are also preparing for GCSE music.

At the end of January, the Remove, Inters and Lower Transits went to Symphony Hall in Birmingham to hear the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra performing. The concert was a very visual demonstration of how classical music has evolved through the ages, and the girls really enjoyed the occasion. For many, it was the first time that they had heard a live orchestra playing.

In early February, the Remove and Inters went to the O2 arena in London to participate in the Young Voices concert. As always, the day was amazing and our girls came back truly buzzing. They thoroughly enjoyed the guest artists, and loved singing as part of a choir of thousands.

The Shell GCSE students went to Headington School just before half term to participate in a GCSE music study day with the local orchestra The Instruments of Time and Truth. This enabled them to hear several of their set works being performed live, and to spend time analysing them in detail alongside students from other schools. The day ended with the students performing the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah, which they all enjoyed.

In March, the boarders went to London to see Iolanthe being performed by the English National Opera. Tickets for this event were kindly arranged for us by Johanna Stephenson, Chair of the Wychwood Association, as one of our old girls, Rebecca Stockland, was performing in the cast. This was an amazing opportunity to consider where a career in music might take you, and afterwards the girls were lucky enough to be invited to a question and answer session with Rebecca, which they found really interesting. For many, it was their first experience of Gilbert and Sullivan!

In the latter half of the Hilary term, the focus was on the completion of composition and performing coursework for girls in Shell. They worked really hard, and even attended school on several Sundays in order to achieve their best. All of the girls can be proud of the work that was finally submitted.

At the end of the term, we had another Performing Arts evening which was a showcase of fine work and creativity. Some of our senior girls performed for the last time before leaving Wychwood, and we thank them for their musical contributions while they have been with us.

In the Trinity term, preparations began for our Remembrance service, which will take place in November. Several different choral groups have been rehearsing each week and there are some promising performances in development.

In June, the Inters attended a practical gamelan workshop at the University of Oxford’s Faculty of Music, and afterwards were taken on a tour around the Bate Collection of musical instruments. The girls really enjoyed playing genuine Indonesian instruments, and were fascinated to try out ancient instruments such as viols and serpents.

As we have now seen the first cohort through the new GCSE music syllabus, it has become apparent that the course is not a good fit for all of our musicians. It is an intellectually stimulating course for those who are interested in musical analysis and in going forward to studying music in a traditional higher education setting, but it has not really satisfied the interests of those girls who are more practical musicians. As a result, we have been working hard this term to set up the BTEC music level 2 course as a more practical alternative. This course is assessed at the same level as a GCSE, but consists of mainly evidence based learning. Preparations have been going well, and the first cohort is due to start the course in September. I am very excited about this new development in the department.

Girls have continued to work towards grade examinations in their individual music lessons, with a 100% pass rate again this year. Particular congratulations go to Sophie who passed grade 8 singing (musical theatre) with distinction.

All in all it has been an exciting year and I look forward to much more to come next term.

Mrs Briony Walster