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

International Online Composition Academy

The second term of the School’s newly formed International Online Composition Academy took place over the half term break. Throughout the three day session, 12 young composers aged 8 to 18 from around the world participated in a programme of unparalleled composition study with Purcell’s expert tutors and musicians, all live and via Zoom.

Faculty member Irina Walters, who is also Purcell’s Aural and Choral Conducting teacher, expressed delight at ‘seeing the students again at the Purcell Online Composition Academy and working with them on their aural and choral conducting skills’. She explained that ‘During the aural classes the students worked on taking 1-2 part dictations, identifying intervals, triads and 7th chords’ and were challenged, amongst other things, to ‘memorise an 8-bars melody upon looking at it for a minute’ which heralded impressive responses.

The highlight of each term is the Special Project in which the academy students are able to work with esteemed industry professionals on a specific musical genre, instrument or influence. The culmination of this process is a concert of the academy composers’ work, and term two’s staggering output did not disappoint!

Purcell’s Head of Jazz Simon Allen led the Special Project – Jazz Composition – and covered everything from improvisation and harmonic composition, to rhythmic composition and historic jazz. The academy students received specialist jazz composition lectures from Mark Armstrong, the Director of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra and Professor of Jazz at the Royal College of Music, and Simon Allen, as well as demonstrations from Purcell’s Jazz tutors. Academy students were allocated 18 hours to compose a jazz influenced piece, written for saxophone, trumpet, bass, piano and drums. The pieces were recorded by the Jazz faculty and alumni in their home studios, with Purcell Technician Tom Bell editing the videos and mixing the audio. The result was a dazzling concert of new music.

Feedback from academy students has been full of praise and incredibly gratifying. One student shared the following with us:

‘Where to start with a thank you that words don’t really do justice to … I look back on 3 (plus the concert) phenomenal days which I really wish hadn’t come to an end. Each lunchtime I rushed downstairs and told my family all about what I’d learnt, how much each tutor had inspired me, how music just kept getting more exciting and how lucky I felt to be immersed in such a brilliant world. It was so lovely getting to know the other young composers better too, they are all so friendly and so talented and it’s so special to be surrounded by people who also love music and will recognise Tchaikovsky when drawn in a game of musical Pictionary – it really was surreal at points.’

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all Purcell staff and professional musicians who gave their energy, enthusiasm and expertise so willingly to the programme, none more so than Online Composition Academy Director Alison Cox, who conceived and founded the Academy. A special mention must also be made of alumnus Sam Every, leader of The Sam Every Big Band, who returned ‘virtually’ to the school to lend his considerable talent to the academy.

We all look forward to seeing the rewards of the Online Composition Academy’s third term, which will focus on Composing for Film and be led by Purell’s Head of Music Tech Aidan Goetzee. Term three will take place in April 2021.

For more information, please click here.

Purcell Student Awarded Colleague of the Royal College of Organists

On Wednesday 17th February, Year 11 student Sam was awarded Colleague of the Royal College of Organists (CRCO). Sam is one of the youngest players to whom the Royal College of Organists has bestowed this title. He excelled in the assessment and won, in addition to the title itself, the Durrant and Limpus Prize for the highest marks in the written and practical exams. Our congratulations to Sam on this impressive achievement.

Juniors Virtual Concert

On Monday 22nd February, our Juniors performed a concert via Zoom, exclusively for Purcell students and staff. The concert was 30 minutes long and the programme was a diverse mix of Bach, Lunde, Mozart and Geminiani. Purcell’s Concerts and Events Manager Bethany Wickens commented that ‘It was lovely to see so many students altogether in one place (virtually of course) and to hear some live music’. It marks the first of our teatime concerts, which will take place at 4pm every Monday and Friday until school reopens.

Our thanks to Madeleine (Year 8), April (Year 7), Luca (Year 6) and Hana (Year 8) for their very fine and accomplished performances. You were all fantastic!

Artwork of the Week

Purcell Art Technician Robin Williamson has selected the following contour line drawing project from Year 8 student Yulin as our art highlight of the week.