At the end of the Summer Half we say goodbye to two of the department’s longest serving visiting piano teachers: Rosemary Conry and John Lavender. There is some (friendly) dispute over who started at Eton first, but between them they notch up more than 70 years of teaching. With friends and colleagues they presented a ‘farewell’ concert at the start of the half to an audience packed with pupils of all ages, past and present.
In the School Concert, Chang Park (DMG) gave a bravura performance of Grieg’s much-loved Piano Concerto under the baton of Mr David Goode, to sustained and warm applause. The Symphonic Wind Band, conducted by Mr David Gordon Shute, played Holst’s Suite No 1 in E flat, one of the first works written specifically for wind band at a time when reductions of orchestral scores were the standard fare. This was followed by American Folk Rhapsody No 1 by Clare Ewing Grundman, a composer who played an important part in the preservation of traditional songs which might otherwise have been lost. The Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Mr Jack Rozman, opened the concert with Handel’s Concerto Grosso Op 6 No 12 and, augmented by the rest of the Symphony Orchestra strings, then played the haunting ‘Elégie’ from Tchaikovsky’s beautiful Serenade.
Pianists Joe Armon Jones (MNF) and Charlie Stacey KS and The Ashley Cooper Trio each gave a short concert in a Friday lunchtime series along with performances by the Eton Jazz Ensemble and the Junior Big Band. Though the 15 minute lunchtime concerts (from 1.50-2.05 pm) tend to be ad hoc occasions, they are announced via email and everyone is very welcome to attend.
There have been four excellent ECMS Concerts this half, organised by boys. Xander Ryan (TEJN) presented violinist Michael Twaddle (RAAC) and harpist Tomós Xerri (PBS), and performed himself as a member of an eight-strong cello ensemble; Sam Landman (JMN) presented all twelve of Debussy’s Preludes Book l played by six different pianists; Tomós Xerri and Jonathan Lyon, cleverly entitled their concert ‘Transcending Collapse’ and featured four works written in circumstances of great emotional pain and personal distress by four different composers, including the ‘Louange à l’éternité de Jésus’, part of Messiaen’s harrowing Quatuor pour le Fin du Temps written in a concentration camp in 1941.
The fourth concert was an exceptional occasion – a dance exchange with Concord Academy in Boston, initially proposed by the McCormick-Goodhart family, who have strong connections with both Concord and Eton. Ben Nuzzo (PBS) composed the original and compelling ballet music ‘Triptych’ and the girls from the Concord dance program performed the ballet in Election Hall to an invited audience. It was a remarkable achievement all round, and particularly so for the Eton musicians who not only had to interpret Ben Nuzzo’s complex music but also had to learn how to play to the needs of the dancers.
The half was rounded off by a performance of one of the greatest pieces of English choral music, Elgar’s masterly Dream of Gerontius. A chorus of 150 boys, joined by 60 girls from Wycombe Abbey and members of the Eton community, produced a monumental wall of sound. The next day College Chapel Choir departed for their concert tour of Japan.