Upper Shirley High School was treated to the dramatic and rousing sounds of a rehearsing Orchestra, throughout the day on Monday this week.
We were delighted and privileged to welcome some brilliant musicians from Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, to work with forty instrumentalists from USH and our feeder schools Wordsworth, Hollybrook and Shirley Juniors.
This was designed to include experienced players and beginners in a day-long experience of working together to create a Performance of two pieces, one called “125” especially written to commemorate BSO’s 125th birthday and included lots of counting in 1s, 2s and 5s, of course … and the other piece, the famous “In the Hall of the Mountain King” from Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite, with its challenges of tempo and dynamic build-up as the steady, quiet, menacing theme gets faster and louder, ending on deafening syncopated chords and terrifying percussion smashes.
Neil, the amazing conductor, had us all exploring the potential of our instruments to start with, with some very effective warm-ups that required absolute focus on his directions in order to get the correct articulation and texture, whether we were playing simple single notes or complicated rhythms.
Then, after an introduction to “125” we divided off into sectional rehearsals, the Woodwind finding a cool air-conditioned space to play their flutes, clarinets and oboe, the Brass melting in the Music room, the Strings (including guitars) charmingly arranged by the pond in the cool shade of the Pollination Area trees, and the Percussion section continuing to annoy the long-suffering workers around the main Hall area, on glockenspiels, tablas, a variety of drums, cymbals and, of course, keyboards. The members of BSO expertly led these, and a lot of general music learning continued, using the musical technical language that is part of a working musician’s everyday vocabulary and not just jargon from a key words test!
A good deal of interest was raised around the school as rehearsals continued through lunchtime (we took our break early) when the pieces were obviously coming together, and applause could be heard from the outside passers-by.
The day culminated in a concert performance of both pieces, to a small but select audience of staff and students, who witnessed some really excellent ensemble playing. The concentration and attention to detail was so impressive, everyone was watching, listening, counting and responding to the conductor and the players around them, there were moments of improvisation from the brass, and dramatic layers of texture building up from the bass, with countermelodies from strings and woodwind weaving in and out in a crescendo to the big percussive coda. Then the joy of recognition when the familiar Grieg theme started to emerge, and the excitement of the accelerando that left the audience wanting more.
We are very grateful to Southampton Music Hub for supporting this excellent music event, and to the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra for sparing some of their best players for the day. We are very much looking forward to the development of this project into the new school year, as the Orchestra prepares to join instrumentalists from our whole area in an exciting trip to a Big Famous London Venue in November, watch this space for more details!
And above all, we welcome the new Year 7 players who will be joining us in September to consolidate our New Big Orchestra, plus hopefully all those current USH students, with all that combined musical experience behind them, who haven’t yet found their way to the fun and challenge that we enjoy at our weekly USH Orchestra rehearsals!