Welcome to the latest edition of Purcell’s Weekly Highlights!

Composers Concert

Last week, staff and boarders were treated to an extraordinary evening of new music thanks to the considerable talents of three first study Year 13 composers – Jonathan, Reuben and Juliana – and their students players.

Year 10 composer Edward was in the audience that evening, and has provided us with the following review:

‘On 22nd September 2020, four new pieces were premiered, all composed by first study composers from the Upper Sixth. The programme was full of inspiring music, creating a fantastic start to the new term after a long period of creative silence.

To kick off the programme, Magdalene (Year 12) gave an outstanding performance of Jonathan’s (Year 13) new piano work entitled ‘Vacillations’. This is a piece that brilliantly combines the classical tradition of the solo piano fantasia, with new ideas about rhythmic notation, showcasing a wide range of classical and jazz composition skills. In September 2020, ‘Vacillations’ was one of three pieces to be shortlisted for the final of the Ennio Porrino International Composition Competition! His second piece, appearing at the end of the concert, not too dissimilar to an epilogue, was a suite for solo cello, performed by Yena (Year 13), entitled ‘Dialogo’. This is a six movement cello suite which, like the first piece, takes these popular old forms, like Fugue and Passacaglia, and brilliantly blends them with styles of music from other cultures around the globe, in particular both Malagasy and Azerbaijan music.

The second piece on the programme was ‘Two Pieces for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet and Cello’, composed and conducted by Reuben (Year 13), performed by Anya (Year 13), Alex (Year 13), Lily (Year 12) and Jayden (Year 13). In the first of these two contrasting pieces – ‘Invariance’, the title says it all! It uses different triad chords to change the listener’s perspective of a single note. This single note is passed around the four instruments throughout the course of the piece. In the second piece – ‘Convergence’, he does the opposite of the first, throughout the whole piece, slowly moving closer and closer towards the unchanged note from the first piece, which now appears right at the very end of the piece. The unusual instrumentation, with the contrast between the woodwind and the cello, only adds to the unearthly world of the two pieces.

Following on from this were three short piano pieces, composed and performed by Juliana (Year 13). These three pieces really take advantage of the full range of the piano. The first piece is almost like a prelude, a short, brief exposition of the type of pieces that are to come. The second piece uses only the lower register of the keyboard, creating an interesting shade of colour on the piano. This is in great contrast to the third piece, which only uses the upper register. This contrast in colour and shade has been a common feature throughout all the pieces in this programme.

Jonathan, Reuben and Juliana are all some of the most talented young composers I know, and it was a delight to hear each of the four pieces at the premiere last week!’

Well done to all who took part, and thank you to Edward for his most accomplished review.

Evening Concerts

The quality of the evening concerts this week have been particularly high and wonderfully well attended. On Tuesday night, Head of Strings Charles Sewart, Head of Woodwind Joy Farrall, and Purcell Accompanist and Piano Teacher Debbie Shah provided the Avison House boarders and other members of staff with a stunning concert repertoire full of fantastic music by composers such as Debussy, Stravinsky and Ravel, in a combination of duos and trios. This was followed on Wednesday night with a Large Chamber Ensemble Concert, performed by a host of Purcell students who were not only showcasing the rewards of their hard work during Music Block but also preparing their pieces for the Virtual Hatfield House Chamber Music Festival and Purcell Online.

Worsley Award

We are so pleased to be able to congratulate Year 9 student and French Horn player Alex, who has become the most recent recipient of the Worsley Award. Administered by Future Talent, the award programme will provide Alex with a scholarship, mentoring and performance opportunities for the next 3 years.

International Online Composition Academy

This week we were excited to launch The Purcell School’s inaugural Internal Online Composition Academy.

The Composition Academy will deliver a part-time programme of online study for young composers aged 9 to 18 years from the UK and overseas who wish to develop their composition skills and learn to write instrumental pieces and original works for voice. The programme will enable academy students to work with Purcell’s composition teachers and instrumentalists on their own music, and explore aspects of technique, notation, instrumental writing and concept development, amongst other things.

The academy will run virtually for 3 days at 3 times during the academic year (9 days in total), with Purcell’s Head of Composition and Composition Academy Director Alison Cox overseeing the programme as a whole.

For more information, please click here.