The entire College community travelled into Perth Concert Hall for the evening of Friday 1 March to enjoy the 2019 Music Department Gala Concert.
Every year has been a little different since the Gala took the place of the traditional Lent Term Choral Society concert a few years ago, with recent years seeing Orff's Carmina Burana, a fully-staged performance of Jesus Christ Superstar and last year's Concerto extravaganza, featuring 6 Coll soloists accompanied by a professional orchestra.
The 2019 concert gave all the groups which rehearse weekly the opportunity to perform to the whole school. Two contrasting pieces from Concert Band opened proceedings, Gorb's Eine Kleine Yiddishe Ragmusik and a medley of tunes from Bernstein's West Side Story. Although slightly depleted in numbers (our sole tuba player supervising Coll's 1st XII at the Lacrosse Nationals in Surrey!) the Band gave a vibrant performance under the direction of Assistant Director of Music, Mrs Nicholson. Following Concert Band onto the magnificent Concert Hall stage, the inexperienced members of Junior Strings (boosted by one or two rather more experienced musos) gave an impressive account of Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on Greensleeves, with mature solo performances from Third Formers Arthur M (violin) and Meredith K (harp). The Junior Strings' big brother, String Orchestra, followed, proving how far they have come as an ensemble under Mrs Nicholson's baton, and with the support of Junior Strings coach, Mr Wilson. String Orchestra played all six movements of Warlock's classic Capriol Suite.
Scheduled to perform in every single item in the evening's programme, Alexander W then led from the piano a performance of his A-level composition coursework, a single movement Piano Trio in A flat major. Fellow pupil Conrad I (violin) and cello teacher Mr Rooney helped to bring the world premiere performance of Alex's piece to vivid life: impressive stuff, as was the String Quartet (Conrad and Arthur on violins, Theresa H on viola and Alexander W now on cello), performing two movements from Haydn's Op 33 No 2 Quartet, 'The Joke'. The Pipes & Drums brought the first half of the concert to a conclusion, but not before introducing the inaugural Gala appearance of the recently formed Ceilidh Band. Kirsty K (accordion), Meredith K (whistle), Herky B (digital chanter) and Arthur M (fiddle) played an atmospheric introduction to The Mist Covered Mountains of Home, the initial tune as a part of three sets, culminating with The Clumsy Lover Jig, arranged by Pipe Major Gregor C. Head of Pipes & Drums, Mr Elrick, had prepared the band to their customary excellence for this tour-de-force of a performance.
Following the Interval, Cantores, the largest group of the evening took to the stage. Led by Mrs Nicholson, this group featured the entire Second and Third Form singing Queen's legendary Bohemian Rhapsody, more than ably supported by four Upper Sixth rockers on guitar (Angus G), bass (Brandon M), keyboards (Alex W) and drums (Jock B). The audience were singing and grooving along from the off in this hugely enjoyable performance. Chapel Choir, led by Director of Music Dr Ridley, then took to the stage. Tippett's Deep River and Bairstow's Let all mortal flesh keep silence proved to be quite a change from Cantores, with a mood of unaccompanied quiet reflection dominating, despite the fireworks which emerged at points in the Bairstow. The choir's final number, Ola Gjeilo's The Rose, was accompanied by String Quartet and piano, beautiful lilting melodies underpinned by lush string scoring: the choir were on magnificent form.
Every year the Music Department looks to include something unexpected and particularly special in our Gala Concerts. This year we chose to produce a complete performance of Andrew Lloyd Webber's fiendishly hard Variations, originally scored for cello and rock band. Aside from transposing a few passages of the original cello part so that the entire solo string part was playable on violin, the Variations crew, under the direction of Dr Ridley, went out of their way to recreate the original '70s chart-topping album, filter-swept analogue synths and heavy progressive rock riffs immaculately performed by our six superb Upper Sixth musicians: Conrad I (violin), Angus G (guitar), Alex W and Ellie R (keyboards), Brandon M (bass) and Jock B (drums). Joining our band was wonderful Fife-based wind supremo, Ellie Steemson on alto/tenor saxes, flute and alto flute. It has taken Dr Ridley 30 years in music education to benefit from sufficient talent across all the requisite instruments to be able to bring this remarkable piece to life in a school performance, but at long last his dream was realised: and bang on cue, the Glenalmond team absolutely smashed it in truly memorable fashion.
A wonderful evening's music-making was brought to a close with a spontaneous standing ovation from school, parents and members of the public. Over a third of the school were on stage over the course of the evening - totally inclusive school music of excellent quality, as noted by the Warden. The entire concert can be streamed via our SoundCloud page.
Pictures from the evening can be viewed on Flickr