Shrewsbury School

A short Week in the Life of Andrew Spicer (M LVI)

Tuesday 15 January 2013

Andrew SpicerTuesday 8th January
It couldn’t have been more obvious to me that Christmas was well and truly behind me, as I began the lengthy process of moving residences from quiet, country Herefordshire to the hustle and bustle of Shrewsbury School life. Memories of turkey and presents seemed ever more distant as I sat at my laptop finishing off some holiday work due for the next morning, and finally the faint embers of the Christmas fire was suffocated by the gruelling monotony of schoolwork.

Wednesday 9th January
As per usual, the term lurched into its unrelenting rhythm with a gruelling 7:00am start as the school flopped out of bed onto the floor and proceeded to make its merry way towards breakfast in KH. The number of faces, however, that graced the dining halls of Kingsland between 7:15 and 8:00 proved that many had failed to make the transition between floor and food. I certainly cannot blame them. Significantly freshened-up and showered sixth formers then had the usual headmaster’s sixth form assembly, which reiterated yet again the importance of coming months and that the emphasis now was on the constricted teaching-time of the Lent term. And so, after many weeks of stone-cold nothing over Christmas, we were thrown headlong into lessons, and quite a shock it was too. For me, double Latin, physics and double biology filled the morning, yet the prospect of a free afternoon on the horizon kept my spirits high and therefore when lunch came I welcomed the unpressured chat and holiday catch-up with friends and staff. The prospect of my ‘free afternoon’ was somewhat shattered when I learnt that a 1:20 Jazz Piano lesson had been scheduled, however this did not dampen my spirits as aside from academics, music is another huge part of my life at school and this lesson heralded the arrival of another musically busy term. I have been playing the piano since the age of about six, yet I have only fairly recently switched to the world of jazz. Jazz is similar to the classical piano as the keyboard can be used to create melodies, rhythms and chords, yet the difficulty lies not in the exact reading of printed music and playing to a defined pattern of individual notes, it lies in the theoretical understanding of complex chord patterns and modal theory. The final product of learning and practising these is that one can provide a chord sequence in the left hand whilst simultaneously improvising (make stuff up/doodling) with the right (over the chords) written to a tune or song. It is great fun if you can do it, and despite having not quite grasped the theory quite yet, I am putting all my confidence in the phrase ‘practice makes perfect’ and also my teacher, the incredible Mr Taylor. Following that, I had the pleasure of Mrs Turpin’s company for my first singing lesson of the term. Aside from bellowing carols at a local church and yelling support for the Stanford American Football team, my voice had seen little action over the holiday so the first lesson is always an important one as it slowly grinds back into gear. At the end of last term I had just finished my grade 7 exam, so I began the new term with the plethora of new and potential repertoire at my fingertips; which is always fun. Later that evening I was called to the term’s first rehearsal for the Moser’s House play, the incredible “one man, two guv’nors”, I play a minor role, so the rehearsal wasn’t too taxing. Up next came the first sound check and rehearsal for the upcoming concert: “Ali Webb and Friends”. I was taking part in the major capacity of ‘stings’ on viola for six of the pieces; ‘Wasted Time’, ‘All Kinds of Crazy’, ‘Lucy Grey’, ‘Living on the Sidelines’, ‘And So It Goes’ and ‘Your Song’. The theatre was set up, even three days before, with one of the most complex microphone configurations I could have possibly imagined for such a small theatre, and throughout the rehearsal I was convinced that one of the thousands of little pieces of equipment was going to go wrong. The rehearsal itself was fairly painless, and was an opportunity to get comfortable with the pieces and playing with a microphone less than 30cm away, and everything being far louder than normal. After this, my usual work schedule was condensed into a much smaller time; so I welcomed the sleep that evening.

Thursday 10th January
Thursdays are usually my busiest day at school, and as a result I’m usually pretty knackered by the end. Waking up at around 8:30am, I was reminded by my numerous alarms that it’s chapel on Thursday. At last it was my time of the week to grace the hallowed halls of Shrewsbury Chapel, to hear the wit and wisdom of our enigmatic reverend. It was in marked contrasted with his other weekday sermons, however, as Mr Dobbie actually felt impassioned and enthused by his topic; the meaning of life. He obviously needed to shock our brains back into normal synaptic rhythm, as we watched him gesticulate wildly about various philosophical and religious aspects of life and therefore the overall meaning of it, before suddenly and abruptly saying the words “forty-two” with some Dobbie-esque gusto. That small band of readers who understand this reference, I commend you; the rest…look it up.

Following this thought-provoking spiel, we again trudged off to lessons. A morning of physics, biology and chemistry passed without event which brought about lunch at about the usual time. After this, however, the ‘normal’ weekday afternoon at school was transformed into a hive of activity, in which various pupils engage in various activities to achieve various goals. For me: CCF. I would ordinarily describe the combined cadet force as a miniature Dad’s Army, however my superiors would probably get cross. My role, as head of the RAF section, is usually to help instruct the younger cadets in military matters, and this week I was teaching marching. After two hours in the cold, we eventually managed to get about twenty cadets all marching relatively well; which was a success I believe, and far better than Captain Mainwaring ever managed. After sending the cadets away to warm up, I then attended a meeting with the other heads of section (Army and Marines) and the members of staff involved in the regular Thursday activity. It provides an interesting, and often amusing insight into the sides of the teachers we rarely see, including the inter-staff banter. It is also came to light in this meeting that resident hard-man, chemistry teacher and staff-member in charge of the Marines section 2nd Lt T.A.C Corbett still has name-tapes sewn into his trousers.

After this meeting, I got changed and went to a chapel choir rehearsal at 6:30pm that evening. After the carol services last term, we were hard-pushed to keep up to the same standard in our usual week-end chapel services. However from what I heard from my perch on the Bass 2 row near the back, the latest Mendelssohn Oratorio chorus “There shall a Star…” comes pretty close; led by the incredible Mr Mason. Then came a momentous event, the latest in a series of shock occurrences; Mr Mason let me leave from a rehearsal early!! The reason: a lower sixth assembly on ‘Higher Education’ which was a 45-minute lecture on everything we needed to know about UCAS, universities, courses etc. which set us in good stead for the next few months when we begin to formulate plans for the next chapter of our lives. Following this, another half-hour sound check for Ali Webb’s concert, then work and finally, sleep.

Friday 11th January
In comparison with Thursday, Friday was so relaxed it was practically Zen. I had a massive lie-in, until 8:00am (yeah, I know…wow) before heading off to lessons in the pounding rain. That afternoon and evening, I decided to catch up on work and music practice; which was helpful as it didn’t mean working too late that evening as I needed my sleep for the concert on Saturday.

Saturday 12th January
Again, like Friday, Saturday was fairly empty and I could take my time over things instead of having to rush around like a headless what-not. Morning lessons passed and, deciding that I needed a break, I took a little jaunt into town to do spend some of my Christmas money and exploit some of Home Bargains’ bargains. I returned just in time for yet another soundcheck at five o’ clock and by six I was free to enjoy a Domino’s Pizza as my special preparation for the concert that evening. Then the time finally came an hour and a half later. Probably the first of a kind that I have performed in, an hour and a half concert purely showcasing one man’s talent on voice and piano. And to put it simply, it was incredible. The talent showcased that evening, not just by him but also by his fellow performers (violin I, violin II, viola, cello, trumpet, saxophone, clarinet, trombone, percussion, bass) including the great and the fantastic Daisy McConnell, Connie Osborne, Teresa Fawcett-Wood and Sienna Holmes who also helped pen some of the numbers. There were even a few stalwart 12 year old supporters from his (and my) old school, Abberley, brought along by one of the music teachers and composer of one of the pieces ‘Lucy Grey’ which was nice to see. Overall it was a terrific evening, complete with standing ovation and a screaming “encore”…and since then, I’ve heard nothing but glowing praise for the music, the performance and overall the months of toil and hard work in arranging and practicing by our talented host…wait, what was his name again, I forget?!

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