Concert is 'Best Ever'
16 March 2017
The Music Department's latest addition, the new School Organ, made its debut at a spectacular Spring Concert on Friday evening. Chair of Governors Mrs Adams described the occasion as 'a concert to end all concerts' and teaching alumnae Miss Plant and Miss Dallas , who have attended Walthamstow Hall concerts for over sixty years, described it as 'surely the best ever'.
The Spring Concert is traditionally a time where the School bids a musical farewell to musicians in Year 13 as they perform in their last school concert. This year, Director of Music, Mr Nick Castell paid homage to the superb and dedicated senior musicians performing for the last time; Sophie, Amelia, Nancy, Alice, Beatrice, Emily and, leader of the orchestra, Jessica.
This year, as well as bidding farewell, the Spring Concert also introduced a new addition to the Music Department. The Main Hall was filled to capacity as parents, students, governors and teachers converged to meet and hear the new School Organ.
Most fittingly, the concert opened with a perfect showcase for the organ with a magnificent performance from the orchestra of the Organ Symphony by Camille Saint-Saëns.
At the end of this roof-raising piece and with the sound of the organ still reverberating around the Hall, Mr Castell gave the School Organ a more formal introduction, speaking of its beginnings at St Mary’s in Riverhead and the complex project undertaken to convert to a MIDI instrument and move it to its new home at Walthamstow Hall. Mr Castell explained how every note from the organ in Hereford cathedral was painstakingly recorded and fed into a bespoke computer programme. When the organ is then played rather than the notes sounding from a set of organ pipes, in the traditional way, they instead feed through the computer programme and are then played from speakers concealed within a special casing on the wall, beautifully hand crafted by Walthamstow Hall’s multi-talented Mr Roger Older.
Mr Castell and Mr Ward gave a demonstration of how the instrument’s two keyboards work alongside the foot pedals. The audience were able to view this, and the organists subsequently playing their pieces, courtesy of a camera sited above the keyboards which projected a live stream of the organist playing onto a screen on the wall above.
Following Mr Castell’s introduction, the organ remained at the heart of the concert with a rich and varied programme that demonstrated its full range from subtle accompanist to booming star, centre stage. Favourite and well-known organ pieces, such as Jesus bleibet meine Freude from Cantata 147, by J S Bach, arranged for sisters Jessica (violin) and Alex Bache (cello), were followed by the less well-known like the quirky Les Corps Glorieux, by Olivier Messiaen, expertly delivered by Year 11 Sasha. Year 10 Emma also gave an accomplished organ solo , playing Magnificat by Alexandre Guilmant.
The organ didn’t displace the established musical groups who also shone. The Chamber Ensemble led a change of pace, putting the ‘Spring’ into the Spring Concert with their performances of Hungarian Dance No. 5 by Brahms and the Flower Duet from Lakme, by Delibes. The ‘Cellistas’ group of cellists from Year 8 and above (and Mr Castell!) maintained the theme with their short and sweet Spring Tanz by Edvard Grieg. The Flute Choir gave a beautiful performance of Grand Quartet in E Minor, by Friedrich Kuhlau before the Swing Band brought the first half to a punchy close with an Instant Swing Concert arranged by Eric Osterling, a speedy, whistle-stop tour of the swing classics including Putting on the Ritz, It Don’t Mean a Thing if it ‘Aint Got that Swing and In the Mood as well as audience participation from the men in the audience shouting out ‘Go Daddio’!
The second half of the programme took on a choral theme, opening with the Senior Chamber Choir singing the lively and unusual modern pieces, Gloria & Sanctus from A Little Jazz Mass, by Bob Chilcott and the haunting God so loved the world, by John Stainer, both pieces accompanied by Mr Castell on the organ.
The extensive Year 7 Choir also performed a contemporary choral piece, singing David Hamilton’s setting of Ave Maria.
In their final Walthamstow Hall concert, Year 13s, Beatrice and Emily gave pure and poignant performances, Beatrice singing Sweeter than Roses by Henry Purcell and Emily performing Pie Jesu from Requiem by Gabriel Fauré. Bea and Emily’s pieces were interspersed by two performances by the Year 7 Chamber Choir, including Litany to the Holy Spirit by Peter Hurford.
The Senior Choir brought the concert to a stirring close with John Rutter’s All Things Bright and Beautiful and their final piece by Walthamstow Hall’s very own Head of Physics Dr Phillip Le Bas. Mr Castell explained that whilst it carries a Christmas text Dr Le Bas’s Watt’s Cradle Carol is so loved by the Walthamstow Hall Choir, for whom it was a favourite on last year’s Venice tour, that it had to be sung for a Walthamstow Hall audience and it did indeed end the concert on a particularly joyous note.
With the performances over Mr Castell asked for one more piece of audience participation, this time with the new School Organ accompanying everyone as they sung the School Hymn, Our Father, by whose servants.