Shrewsbury School

An outstanding concert at the Maidment Building for the Friends of Shrewsbury School Music last Sunday

Tuesday 17 May 2011

The built-in flexibility of the Maidment Building came to the rescue on Sunday evening.  Forced indoors by inclement weather, the organisers were able to use the hall in conference mode for the reception, before a quick restoration of the seating made it ready for the concert. A large audience was soon in place for first item,  “Now is the month of Maying”, given by a quintet of singers under the direction of John Moore.  This was ensemble singing of the highest order, the several voices blending as if they had been together for years. Their shared understanding of the spirit of the period was a delight.

That the Music Department has an exceptional crop of flautists was apparent in an arrangement of the Andante from Mendelssohn’s “Italian” symphony, a novel idea which came off after a tentative start.  There was a further woodwind contribution from a quartet of experts familiar to regular concert-goers, and in between we had two numbers from the Chamber Choir. Not for the first time, there was evidence that this group is heard to greater advantage in early music, though both pieces were delivered with the  clarity which is the hallmark of Dympna Nightingale’s elite group.

It is always a pleasure to see David Joyce’s name in the programme, and on this occasion his breezy manner as he set up the stage promised something special.  So it proved, for I have never heard David play better than he did in this Schumann Sonata. Rich in tone and inspired in identification with the music, his performance was a personal triumph, enhanced by his rapport with John Moore at the piano. This is a good moment to mention what a fine accompanist we have in our Director.  However little the chance to rehearse and whatever the style required, week after week he provides responsive and idiomatic support for pupils and colleagues.  This particular instance of collaboration was a gem.

So, too, was Laurence Jeffcoate’s flamboyant rendition of “Luck be a Lady Tonight”. Here is a singer who is developing his baritone voice at an astonishing pace. Earlier in the year, I thought the transition might take a couple of years, yet only months later we find him secure and resonant - and completely at home on stage. We know he has done it before, but it is encouraging to see that he has a future as well.

Rob Collins is further on in his career, on his way to a prestigious academy in America, and his performance on saxophone showed us why he gained acceptance.

Younger, but already making his mark professionally, is Ali Webb, who sings to his own accompaniment.  Even as he got ready the sound system, one could detect the poise of an experienced artist, an impression confirmed by his relaxed and flexible delivery. So assured is he that it can escape notice that he is also playing the piano very well indeed.

Before him at the microphone, Paul Greetham, Director of Sport, had demonstrated that he, too, was no stranger to the platform, though he admitted to being nervous about appearing before members of the School. If he was, it didn’t show.  Power and panache were there in plenty and he was equally in control of an impressive upper register.

These virtues of Paul’s and Ali’s singing survived the layer of distortion introduced by excessive amplification.  “Too loud” appears to be a minimum setting for the technician, but to my ears, it only puts up a barrier between audience and artist.

It is another of the excellent  Maidment Building’s party tricks that the accoustic can be adjusted  to suit the occasion, and the promoters of this concert had got it just right.

At the end of the concert, JFM made a short(ish) speech, thanking Friends for their continued support.  He stressed the importance of private generosity at a time of diminishing state funding, and re-affirmed the School's commitment to providing quality live music in Shropshire.

Martin Knox

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