Music Instrumental

There is an extraordinary array of opportunities to perform instrumentally at Blundell’s. There are two orchestras, strong orchestra, string groups and quartets, wind ensembles, brass ensembles and chamber music for all instruments. There is also the chance for students to organise their own music through the annual House Music Competition, which is always of an exceptionally high standard.

Our instrumental ensembles our flourishing and have gained recent recognition for their advanced music making; the Senior and Junior String Ensembles won their classes at the 2015 Devon Performing Arts Festival, as did the Big Band and Saxophone Quintet. The saxophonists also made the semi-finals of the 2015 National Pro-Corda Chamber Music Competition. The School Orchestra continue to explore challenging and exciting repertoire, including recent performances of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet Suite, Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony and Handel’s Water Music Suite.

Over half of the school take instrumental lessons with our highly skilled peripatetic staff and we have teachers who are concert performers, members of orchestras, and outstanding teachers; our teachers include those who also teach for the National Children’s Orchestra and have performed on some of Europe’s most prestigious venues, including the Albert Hall, Concertgebouw, St John Smith’s Square, Carnegie Hall and Covent Garden.

Blundell’s offers considerable scholarships and exhibitions to musical students. Please click here for further details or contact the Director of Music for further information.

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Orchestra

The Orchestra has had a wonderful array of opportunities this year under the baton of Dr Leaman. Things kicked off with a bang at the Movies Concert, with the atmospheric opening movement of Richard Strauss’s ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’ being coupled with pieces by Shostakovich and Beethoven.

The focus of the second term was the Spring Concert. The Orchestra’s hard work and dedication in rehearsals paid off with highly dramatic performance of Prokofiev’s ‘Dance of the Knights’ from his second Romeo and Juliet Suite. This theatrical opening to the concert was contrasted with the beautiful traditional Indian melodies of a new piece arranged from traditional ragas by Dr Leaman, featuring the solo sitars of Rowan Carew and Freya de Lisle of the Upper Sixth. The orchestra was later joined by players from the School House Orchestra and guest musicians from the Prep School in a thrilling rendition of Alla Hornpipe from Water Music, Suite no. 2 by Handel.

Finally, to round off the school year the orchestra added some pomp, circumstance and sparkle to the service for Old Blundellian Day. Vaughan William’s dramatic arrangement of the ‘Old Hundredth’ provided an opportunity for the brass to shine with their fanfares, and the orchestral arrangement of Jerusalem was played with verve and gusto – a fitting end to a thoroughly productive and enjoyable year of Orchestra.

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Big Band

The Big Band has developed its repertoire this year and performed completely new material. In the Simon Allen concert they performed tricky arrangements of Ellington’s Caravan and The New York Walk, which had improved so much over the course of an afternoon workshop with him.

Blundell’s at the Movies provided an opportunity to present further pieces, this time the band performed the theme from The Pink Panther, ‘Mercy Mercy Mercy’ by Joe Zawinul, a slow funk of the Beatles classic Come Together, and Soul Bossa Nova, memorably used as the opening music from the Austin Powers films.

In March the band triumphed in the Devon Performing Arts Festival, winning the advanced orchestra and band category. Their talents were heard again later that month at the Spring Concert, where they wowed the audience with the subtlety of ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy’, which featured Rosalie Sanders, Imi Sanders-Dutton and Emma Nelson on vocals, alongside Ed Nash as the solo bugle player. This was followed by the samba rhythms of the upbeat and exciting Spain, by Chick Corea, which ended their set in a wonderfully exuberant fashion.

They were also treated to a workshop by ex-Marine band leader Richard Harvey where the band played through a Quincy jones funk tune and further developed their improvisation skills. Concerts in the summer term saw the band raising money for the Tiverton Museum and for All Saint’s Church, Dulverton.

This year will see the departure of some long serving and wonderfully talented players. Many thanks to Ed Nash (trumpet), Rowan Carew (guitar), Hector Pring (trombone) and Lily Liu (saxophone) for all the commitment you have shown over the years.

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Soul Band

The Soul Band has continued its busy performing schedule this year, and has quickly integrated a considerable number of new performers in the ensemble. Our first outing was taking part in the Simon Allen Masterclass, where Simon was able to give us some great hints on performance techniques and was very complimentary about the band, which gave us considerable enthusiasm to tackle the next gig – Blundell’s at the Movies. Unsurprisingly, The Blues Brothers is required viewing for anyone joining the Soul Band, and so the concert gave us a great opportunity to pay a nod to the film by performing Solomon Burke’s ‘Everybody Needs Somebody’, along with the instrumental track ‘Soul Finger’, and as something a little different, an arrangement of Ray Parker Jr’s theme to the film ‘Ghostbusters’.

The Easter term saw the band move into more contemporary music for the Blundell’s Unplugged event, getting the crowd on the dance floor with a spirited rendition of Mark Ronson’s ‘Uptown Funk’, as well as some Northern Soul classics, and towards the end of the term, the Spring Concert saw the band performing Tina and Ike Turner’s epic soul version of Creedance Clearwater Revival’s ‘Proud Mary’. To finish the year, the band also performed a number of pieces for the Tiverton Museum concert, and contributed a set to the end of year house social event.

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Chamber Music

Chamber music-making has been particularly fulsome and successful this year. There are a wealth of groups to play in for all instruments. The flute quartet, piano trio, Petergate brass group, saxophone quintet, senior and junior string quartets, senior string group, SH string quartet, horn trio, brass group, wind ensemble, flute choir and piano ensembles have all featured in school concerts this year.

The best of these ensembles have gone on to success at regional and national competitions. Both the Senior String Group and Junior String Group won their categories at the Devon Performing Arts Festival, as did the saxophone quintet. The saxophonists, junior string quartet and piano trio also took part in the Pro Corda National Chamber Music Competition. The saxophonists made it through the heats to the semi-final, where they travelled to Cheltenham to compete. This was an impressive achievement and placed them alongside some of the top musicians in the country and they should be extremely proud of their accomplishment.

The Music Department ensures that there is plenty of music-making and opportunities for performance across all types of music, and regular open mic nights and popular music performances are an important part of this. This year, there was an open mic night in the Autumn term, in which an impressive number of pupils performed their own songs and compositions, as well as covers and arrangements. A large number of pupils also took part in the charity Blundell’s Unplugged event, which allowed them to perform in a more formal event. The House Music Festival also demonstrated a wide range of influences, including pop and rock, and the standard of popular music performance and composition at Blundell’s continues to go from strength to strength.

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School House Orchestra

It has been a very enjoyable and exciting year for the School House Orchestra. The new Year 7s augmented the numbers considerably, but all settled in very quickly.

The focus this year has been on learning Peter Warlock’s ‘Capriol Suite’. It is a rewarding collection of music, featuring many contrasting moods and also providing opportunities for all the different instruments of the orchestra to have the tune at one point or another. It was thrilling to achieve a full performance of the entire Suite at the School House Music Festival in March. This was followed up by a performance at Tidcombe Primary School, in a visit to teach the younger children about the instruments of the Orchestra. Hopefully some of them might have felt inspired to take up one of the instruments they had seen.

Another highlight was the participation of the School House Orchestra in the Spring Concert, where they were able to perform alongside the full School Orchestra in a thrilling rendition of ‘Alla Hornpipe’ from Handel’s Water Music Suite. It was encouraging to see the School House Orchestra fit in so easily and perform so confidently alongside much older musicians.

Many thanks must go to all the players in the School House Orchestra for their hard work and commitment this year, and also to Mr Sherwood for rehearsing and conducting the ensemble.

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House Music Competition

The end of February brought the houses together in their annual battle for musical supremacy. Big School was packed with the audience for House Music and it provided a terrific evening of entertainment for all with some wonderfully accomplished performing. The time and effort that went into each of the houses’ sets was clear to see and the guest adjudicator, film composer Dr Andrew Fisher from the University of Southampton, was clearly impressed and appreciative of the variety of talent on display. He was superb in his adjudication and comments and contributed enormously to the sense of fun and achievement.

Special mention must be made of the representative organisers; Chris Hamilton, Becky Brinkley, Natalie Cotton, Rory Clark, Tabi Unsworth-White, Ivan Leung, Rowan Carew, Alex Kitson, Ed Nash and Hattie Boxall all deserve the praise they gained. Congratulations to GH for winning the House Shout and Petergate for winning the overall trophy, with a quite remarkable and highly professional 15 minutes of diverse and extremely challenging repertoire.

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School House Music Festival

The School House Music Festival held at the end of the Easter Term once again tested the musical talents of the four SH houses, and once again, they rose to the challenge admirably. Each house put together a programme of music featuring a piano ensemble, a singing ensemble, an instrumental ensemble, a performance of the house’s choice, and finally, a House Shout, performed by all the pupils in the house.

The musical ability demonstrated was outstanding across the board, and the House Shouts have gone from strength to strength in terms of both musical performance, and increasingly, some impressive choreography.

The festival was judged by a hugely supportive and Mervyn Bedford, a specialist in youth music education, and after some intense discussions, School House Music trophy was awarded to Amory, whose excellent House Shout performance of ‘We Built This City’ was one of the high points of the event.