Music Choral and Vocal

Singing is at the heart of the school. There are four Choirs singing a variety of sacred and secular music, regular services inside and outside of school, including Exeter, Bath, Gloucester and Wells Cathedrals. There are also annual school musicals and annual choir trips abroad, including most recently Barcelona, Venice and Prague. A major choral work is performed every year in the Spring Concert with soloists from the pupil body. Singers from Blundell’s regularly progress to top music colleges or become choral scholars at Oxbridge.

School Choir

The School Choir is always busy and has plenty of exciting opportunities. An incredibly wide variety of music is performed to very high standard, ranging from pieces composed way back in the sixteenth century to new material written especially for the choir.

In addition to contributing to the regular school services on Sundays, the choir helps mark the special occasions on which the Blundell’s community comes together to worship, commemorate and celebrate. This includes services for Harvest, Remembrance, Advent, Christmas, Passiontide, and Old Blundellian Day.

Recent highlights include the performance at the 2014 Christmas Carol Service of a piece specially arranged for the occasion by the new Director of Music, Dr Oliver Leaman. His powerful arrangement of the familiar carol ‘Silent Night’ included words in German, French and English in order to recall the Christmas truce of 1914, in this the centenary year of the beginning of the World War I.

Another high point was the thrilling performance of C.H.H. Parry’s Coronation Anthem ‘I was glad’ at the Old Blundellian Service, coupled with William Walton’s tricky setting of Psalm 100 for double choir.

Beyond performing at the many services of the school year, the choir also finds time to play a major part in the annual Spring Concert. 2014 saw the massed voices of the Prep School, School House and School Choirs coming together to sing a piece by the Old Blundellian Peter Hurford, followed by a sensitive performance of the Fauré Requiem.

The Fauré Requiem was performed again several weeks later by the choir in the magnificent setting of Barcelona Cathedral, as part of the choir tour to Barcelona. A busy five days combined a thorough tour of the sights with performances at the iconic Basilica de la Sagrada Familia, the Abbey at Montserrat (to a full house), and Barcelona Cathedral (twice). The choir tours abroad every year. More information can be found here.

These engagements very clearly illustrate the growing maturity and quality of the singing by the School Choir, who have been shown to be equally at home in the school chapel as they are in filling the cavernous spaces of continental cathedrals. The choir is always full of energy, enthusiasm and quality and is a tremendous ensemble to be a part of.

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Chamber Choir

The Chamber Choir is drawn from the best singers of the School Choir, and meets once a week to have a look at more advanced and challenging repertoire. They are an enormously capable and receptive group, equally at home with music of the Italian Renaissance as with the holy minimalism of John Tavener.

Throughout the 2014-15 academic year the Chamber Choir made special contributions to the major services held at school. This was first seen at Remembrance Sunday, where they followed the Act of Commemoration and Last Post with an emotive performance of Douglas Guest’s setting of Lawrence Binyon’s famous words: ‘They shall grow not old….’ Another highlight was their confident and expressive singing of Morten Lauridsen’s modern classic ‘O Magnum Mysterium’ at the Christmas Carol Service.

In addition to contributing to the major services, the Chamber Choir also performs its own services at home and away. Joseph Haydn’s charming Missa brevis provided an uplifting accompaniment to a School Eucharist in February 2015, and in late April of that year the Chamber Choir travelled to Bath to sing a full choral evensong at the Abbey. The clergy at the Abbey were so impressed by the maturity and quality of our young singers that they have been asked back to sing a full weekend of services for 2016. The choir performs regularly outside of school and future events include evensong at Gloucester Cathedral and Wells Cathedral.

Outside of a liturgical context, the Chamber Choir has also performed concerts of Advent and Christmas music in Uplowman and Tiverton, contributed some exquisite Bruckner to the Spring Concert, and added a welcome moment musicaux to the festivities of Speech Day in the form of Stanford’s partsong ‘The Bluebird’.

The Chamber Choir are always to be commended for tackling a wide range of difficult repertoire with such enthusiasm and quality. There is plenty to look forward to with even more ambitious programmes in the years to come, especially for the Blundell’s Community Carol Service to be held this December in Exeter Cathedral.

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School House Choir

School House Choir (Years 7 & 8) meet once a week to rehearse and perform in different services and concerts throughout the school year, encompassing a wonderfully wide range of music.

2014-15 saw the group learning Gospel songs for the School House Christmas Teatime Concert, complete with actions. They were so well received that they were subsequently used to get the whole school going in a Thursday morning hymn practice. The other highlight of that term was of course the SH Carol Service. After singing the gentle ‘O men from the fields’ the young singers performed the Sussex Carol in the very Christmassy arrangement by David Willcocks.

The focus of the second term was the Spring Concert. The School House Choir joined together with the massed voices of the combined School Choir, Adult Choir and the Prep School Choir to sing the ‘Litany to the Holy Spirit’ by Peter Hurford (OB). They followed this by lending their voices to Dr Leaman’s arrangement of the hit single ‘The Best Day of my Life’, a song with which they already seemed very familiar!

The Summer Term proved no less busy, with the School House Choir performing at two services. The first, for Ascension Day, included an uplifting anthem to animate the School Eucharist. This was followed a couple of weeks later with a performance of Mozart’s ‘Ave verum’ at a School Service. It was a lovely way to end a fulfilling year of singing in the School House Choir.

2015-16 sees a Songs of Praise Service for the Two Moors Festival, contributions as chorus to the school musical, Streetchild, as well as the more usual array of services and concerts.

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Repertoire List 2014-15

School Choir

God so loved the world – Stainer
The Earth is the Lord’s – Stanford
Tibie Paiom – Bortniansky
The Souls of the Righteous – Lewis
This is the record of John – Gibbons
Magnificat – Noble
Sussex Carol – Willcocks
Torches – Joubert
Silent Night – Leaman
In the bleak midwinter – Darke
New Year Carol – Britten
Nunc dimittis – Noble
Litany to the Holy Spirit – Hurford
Locus iste - Bruckner
Agnus Dei – Haydn
Give us the wings of faith – Whitbourn
Jubilate Deo – Walton
I was glad – Parry
& the Fauré Requiem

Chamber Choir

All of the above and:

For the fallen – Guest
This is the truth – Vaughan-Williams
Matin Responsory – Palestrina
O Magnum Mysterium – Lauridsen
The Infant King – Willcocks
The Lamb – Tavener
Reading Responses
Psalm 13
Missa brevis Sancti Joannis de Deo – Haydn
The Bluebird – Stanford