Summer Serenade XXVII

As a culmination of Music Week at 鶹Ů' the Summer Serenade, despite the weather is a chance to celebrate all the musicians at Taylors' and to ring in the summer with a bang!

Of the several lost traditions of 鶹Ů’ which are worth reviving, perhaps the unusual position of the Monitors’ and Prompters’ tables in Assembly would be the most interesting. Or perhaps the reintroduction of the Head Monitor’s Latin Speech at St Barnabas’ Day? Or possibly more frequent wearing of academic dress? Reader, though these are noble thoughts, the subject of this article concerns one of the more recent traditions, begun in the 1990s, and continued until 2016. This is none other than the Summer Serenade. The concert was described by one satisfied parent as a “superb concert” with “a smorgasbord of different styles”. Tuesday’s event was the twenty-seventh such occasion, and, true to form, was a wonderful celebration of all the musical accomplishments of the past year.

Weather forecasts are deceptive. Two national institutions, the Met Office and the BBC, proffered strongly contrasting opinions; experience proposed a third, and when Tuesday morning dawned after a slumber of crepuscular hue, the sages of the Music Department convened. In a scene reminiscent of the Bard’s Macbeth, a call had to be made. Would we believe the murmurs of the forecasters, or would we have hope? The decision, which was not taken lightly, was that the entirety of the concert would take place inside. Furious scrambling around ensured that this was sorted and that parents were informed in good time.

The music began at roughly seven o’clock with Benjamin Britten’s ‘Fanfare for St Edmundsbury’, played from the gallery. This was followed by the Dixieland Band who, fresh from their splendid performances at last week’s Jazz Night, performed marvellously. They were followed by the Chamber Choir, who sang two Victorian part songs, ‘As Torrents in Summer’ and ‘The Long Day Closes’. The words of the second were more apt than the former. These items were followed by Taylors’ Funk Society, who played no funk, and I think never have. False advertising aside, they played rather well. Owing to a change of circumstances, the performance by the music staff of Ernst Toch’s ‘Geographical Fugue’ was tacitly omitted. In previous incarnations of the Summer Serenade, leaving members of staff have performed solos. With a stalwart member of the bass section leaving this year to study for a PGCE at Cambridge, classicist Jude Hedges-Robinson took to the stage to perform an aria from Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’. The Big Band played two pieces to close the first half.

The interval was an opportunity to make use of the ice cream van which had been brought in. The bar, which was expertly manned by Miss Solomon and Messrs Herring and Wells, was doing a roaring trade of Pimm’s, Prosecco, wine, and assorted soft beverages. The catering staff were in charge of strawberries. We were blessed by some fine weather, and the interval was passed outside in the Inner Quad.

The first half of the concert ran perfectly to time, and the second half began at the time appointed. It began with a lusty performance from the whole of the Third Form who, having played Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ last week, performed two songs. Next came Mr Tonks and his Concert Band. As ever, their performance was enchanting. Percussion Ensemble always delivers an exciting performance, and Tuesday was no exception. Under the direction of Miss Martin, Wind Band played Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’, a foot-tapping number with enduring appeal.

Bedecked with resplendent pink garnishes, the Barbie Dolls performed ‘Mister Sandman’, accompanied by lively percussion and piano. They were followed by Sinfonia, who played a medley of popular hits from the James Bond franchise. The penultimate ensemble of the concert was the School Choir. Numbering around seventy, they performed three contrasting pieces, firstly a medley of songs from ‘West Side Story’. The second song was the ‘Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves’ from Verdi’s Nabucco. The final song, which was performed with a new orchestration by Mr Hill featuring swanee whistle, was Flanders and Swann’s ‘The Hippopotamus’. Regrettably since the previous Summer Serenade, the fashion for performing certain well-known songs has become problematic, and this light-hearted number gave the audience an opportunity to join in with the chorus. Hearty singing from the stalls was heard from Isaac Taylor-Cummings (OMT 2023), as well as from the guests of the Head Master.

The musical element of the concert closed with Bizet’s ‘L’Arlésienne Suite No. 1’. On last year’s Chamber Choir tour the musicians visited the beautiful city of Arles in the south of France, and it was wonderful to be able to perform this music having visited the location after which it is called. Thank yous were offered, and the evening was brought to a close with some fireworks which were expertly set off by the incoming Head of Chemicals, Mr Talboys.

We hope that you will be able to join us for concerts in the next academic year, details of which are available in the Music Calendar.

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