Three Cheers for St Cecilia

I have always strongly believed that collaborative music making is one of the most vital parts of any musical education. It’s certainly the most enjoyable part. What’s the point of squirrelling yourself away in and practice room for hours on end playing beautiful music for no one but you to hear? As Jesus Christ said in Matthew’s gospel, "And no man, when he hath lighted a lamp, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but putteth it on a stand, that they that enter in may see the light.” Talents are there to be enjoyed by everyone and at Farleigh, our children are blessed with a wealth of musical talent, all of which blazed in luminous glory at last week’s St Cecilia Concert.

Statistics are great things; how about some figures from this year’s St Cecilia Concert? One theme (commemorating the end of the First World War), 21 ensembles, 165 minutes of music, 272 children performing and an audience of over 500 in attendance. The scale of the St Cecilia Concert, for a Prep School, is certainly bordering on “epic.”

The theme certainly grabbed everyone’s attention and there was a poignant reverence from both the audience and performers. After all, we are fortunate to be able to enjoy such events, a freedom which was so hard won by those who gave their lives on the battlefields of northern Europe. It wasn’t all doom and gloom though as our talented and creative team of music teachers uncovered all sorts of morale boosting tunes from the period. The diversity of ensembles was striking: from two choirs numbering nearly 100 children each to a recorder quartet via regular favourites, including the three wind ensembles, the close harmony groups, Five Foot Six, the Thundering Herd, the Brass Ensemble (on excellent form performing a German march), the ever-reliable guitar ensembles, Mr Redmond’s recreation of The Christmas Truce using body percussion, and the seriously impressive String Sensation as well as two rock bands. The audience enjoyed music from across the Atlantic, from the trenches themselves, excerpts from Oh! What a Lovely War! and a little audience participation too, rounding the evening off in proper Edwardian style.

Besides the scale and diversity of the evening, what came across so spectacularly was the children’s enjoyment, enthusiasm and confidence. This was corporate music making at its very best: talented young musicians coming together to enjoying making music. Sir Edward Grey is famously reputed to have commented that “The lamps are going out all over Europe.” Not at Farleigh. At this year’s St Cecilia Concert, our children heeded the advice in Matthew’s gospel and put their musical lights brilliantly on the stand for all to see.

My thanks, as always, go to everyone who made the evening possible: the support from the audience, which is so crucial to the success of the evening; everyone who helped to get the Sports Hall ready for the concert; my colleagues for their understanding as we cause chaos throughout the day as we get ready. And lastly... to my fantastic team in the Music Department: their creativity and ability to harvest the talents of Farleigh’s lucky pupils never ceases to amaze me.

Marcus Reeves

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