King Edward's Music

Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham

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Choral and Orchestral Concerts, 2019

We are pleased to announce that the tickets for our Choral and Orchestral concerts are now on sale.

On Sunday, 10 March at 1500, KES/KEHS Symphony Orchestra plays Jean Sibelius: Violin Concerto op.47 in D minor. In the second half, the Choral Society will give W.A. Mozart: Requiem in D minor, KV626 with Rosy Henegan, Lucia Kirchhof, Arun Ramanathan and Joseph Ward as soloists.

On Monday, 11 March at 1930, Sergei Rachmaninov: Symphony no.2 op.27 in E minor is played by KES/KEHS Symphony Orchestra.

You can book tickets by visiting:

http://www.ruddockpac.co.uk

Artwork: Seb Bellavia

Peter and the Firebird – A Birmingham Schools Spectacular

Peter and the Firebird – A Birmingham Schools Spectacular

Some projects are a long time in the making, but often all the more satisfying because of it. Earlier this week I was in Birmingham for the culmination of a glorious, ambitious, beautiful project, hosted by King Edward School and their music teacher/conductor Dr Martin Leigh, music teacher Keith Farr, and embracing seven other schools in the Birmingham area.

With the idea of using story and art in music as an aid to inspire primary school children to compose their own music, I helped develop a book for schools, “Exploring Music through Stories”, full of useful teaching notes. Meanwhile Martin and Keith were actively involved in working directly with schools and teachers to encourage the children to create something wonderful – and they did!

They should be named: Hallmoor (who presented – and charmingly acted – songs from Hansel and Gretel); Bourneville and Tiverton (who offered a fresh look at Peter and the Wolf); Brownmead (who conjured the witch Baba Yaga with a beautifully slavic sounding song); The Oval (I loved their midnight clock for Cinderella!); Elms Farm (Their “Snegurochka” song touched the heart in their version of The Snow Maiden) and Hillstone (who brilliantly used percussion and all kinds of unusual sounds to share the underwater world of Sadko – amazing!). Huge congratulations to them all – it was truly wonderful to witness! all the children, shining with pride and achievement!

Afterwards, in keeping with the Russian Fairy Tale theme, I narrated and illustrated the original version of Peter and the Wolf by Prokofiev, plus a couple of extracts from Stravinsky’s Firebird, with the KES symphony orchestra, who played superbly.

But that wasn’t all – there then followed an evening performance of Peter and the Wolf and the full 1919 suite from The Firebird. A pretty full day! For me, the challenge was to learn the narration for Peter and the Wolf and many complicated cues, by heart. As I was illustrating the tale simultaneously, at my easel, it wasn’t possible to use a score, so it all had to be firmly embedded in my memory. Happily I survived both times without mishap, and the lovely warm Birmingham audience made me most welcome.

My thanks to and admiration for Keith and Martin are boundless. The way Martin thanked every single student in the orchestra, as they left the stage, was utterly heartwarming. Also thanks to Sarah Mullen of the brilliant Busy Parents Network, who so ably supported this glorious, unforgettable event. One of the best I’ve ever been involved in.

I’m now looking forward to returning to Birmingham for several Busy Parent Network events at their Bournville Book Fest in March, including another concert, with Birmingham opera singer Abigail Kelly, an event full of art and arias as I accompany her singing with painting! You can find out more here:

https://www.jamesmayhew.co.uk/events/stories-from-the-opera

James Mayhew

James is the creator of the much-loved Katie and Ella Bella Ballerina series and many other books, including Koshka’s Tales, Miranda the Explorer and Boy. Alongside his work in publishing, James has devised and performs in a hugely successful series of concerts for children, combining live classical music, storytelling and art.

Inside Music on BBC Radio 3

Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham: Margaret Cookhorn on BBC Radio 3

On Saturday, 1 December, bassoonist and principal contrabassoonist of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and woodwind tutor of King Edward’s School, Margaret Cookhorn, shares her excitement about a rare experience – playing the contrabassoon in chamber music by Mozart. She also analyses how Richard Strauss brings exotic flavours to the orchestra in his take on Salome’s Dance of the Seven Veils, and explains her fascination for patterns in the music of Benjamin Britten. Margaret’s choices range from a miniature by Elgar played by violinist Nigel Kennedy to part of Messiaen’s massive Turangalila Symphony, plus vocal acrobatics from Ella Fitzgerald and Bobby McFerrin.

At 2 o’clock Margaret introduces her Must Listen piece – something she thinks everyone should hear at least once in their life – as she says: “it contains one of the most exciting and rhythmic endings to a symphony ever written”.

You can read more at:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b2jdyd

Our thanks to Mr. Ash for the photographs.

 

Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham

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Monday, 5 November 2018  Ruddock Performing Arts Centre Thank you and big well done for boys and girls from both school on their performances on Monday evening.

Peter and the Wolf – Exploring music through stories

17 October 2018

It was a huge pleasure to welcome the representatives from Bournville Junior School, Brownmead Primary Academy, Elms Farm Primary, Hillstone School, Hallmoor and the Oval schools.

A special thank you to Keith Farr who led the inspirational workshop about music composition through myths and folk tales. We hope that it will be a great stimulus for all involved.

CBSO Presentation for Shells

Friday, 12 October 2018

Ruddock Performing Arts Centre

Huge thanks to Simon de Souza (the brass quintet Chaconne Brass), Margaret Cookhorn (principal contra bassoonist at CBSO) and Richard Jenkinson (The Dante String Quartet) for treating our Year 7 boys to a variety of music on Friday.
A special mention to our pupil Christopher who performed his own composition with Margaret Cookhorn (CBSO) and fellow KES musicians Ben and Yash.

 

 

Our thanks to Mr. Ash for his lovely photographs. The whole gallery may be viewed here.

Lunchtime Recital

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Thursday 18th October 2018 at 13.10
Ruddock Performing Arts Centre

Charlotte Howdle – violin
Jacob Rowley – guitar
Naomi Bazlov – piano
The Orient Quartet (Ivy Lau, violin; Zoe Yap, violin; Junias Wong, viola; Ami Chen, ‘cello)

works by Franck, Villa-Lobos, Shostakovich, Rachmaninoff.

Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham

This recital is presented jointly with King Edward VI High School for Girls

 

Lunchtime Recital

Thursday 14 June 2018 at 13.10
Ruddock Performing Arts Centre

Gabriel Wong, violin
Sam Howorth, piano
Rosy Heneghan, voice

works by Reger, Schubert, Scarlatti, Liszt, Gurney and Gounod

Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham

This recital is presented jointly with King Edward VI High School for Girls

 

Margaret Cookhorn on BBC Radio 3

Music at King Edward's Music, Birmingham: BBC Inside Music

Inside Music
Saturday, 12 May at 1300 on BBC Radio 3

A new series in which each week a musician reveals a selection of music – from the inside.

Today, bassoonist and principal contrabassoonist of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and woodwind tutor at King Edward’s School, Margaret Cookhorn shares her excitement about a rare experience – playing the contrabassoon in chamber music by Mozart. She also analyses how Richard Strauss brings exotic flavours to the orchestra in his take on Salome’s Dance of the Seven Veils, and explains her fascination for patterns in the music of Benjamin Britten. Margaret’s choices range from a miniature by Elgar played by violinist Nigel Kennedy to part of Messiaen’s massive Turangalila Symphony, plus vocal acrobatics from Ella Fitzgerald and Bobby McFerrin.

At 2 o’clock Margaret introduces her Must Listen piece – something she thinks everyone should hear at least once in their life – as she says: “it contains one of the most exciting and rhythmic endings to a symphony ever written”.

You can read more at the programme by visiting:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b2jdyd

 


Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham

 

From the Symphony Hall Concert on 23 April


Our thanks to Mr. Ash for the photographs.

Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham

The concert is presented jointly with King Edward VI High School for Girls

 

From the Symphony Hall Concert on 23 April


Our thanks to Mr. Ash for the photographs.

Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham

The concert is presented jointly with King Edward VI High School for Girls

 

From the Symphony Hall Concert on 23 April


Our thanks to Mr. Ash for the photographs.

Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham

The concert is presented jointly with King Edward VI High School for Girls

 

From the Choral and Orchestral Concert 2 on 12 March 2018

Our thanks to Mr. Ash for the photographs.

Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham

The concert is presented jointly with King Edward VI High School for Girls

 

From the Choral and Orchestral Concert 2 on 12 March 2018

The concert is presented jointly with King Edward VI High School for Girls

From the Instrumental Evening on 5 March 2018

The concert is presented jointly with King Edward VI High School for Girls

Matthew Igoe on Shostakovich

Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham -- Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975): Symphony no.5 in D minor, op.47

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975): Symphony no.5 in D minor, op.47

The life and work of Dmitri Shostakovich are inextricable from the imposed Stalinist regime ever present in Russia in the early to mid twentieth century. Any analysis of his symphonies is fraught with peril: the same movement heralded as a triumphant celebration of communist ideologies by his contemporaries is now universally regarded as a powerful and subversive stance against the very people he was writing for; a forced exultation, “as if someone were beating you with a stick and saying your business is rejoicing, your business is rejoicing”. He exemplifies art’s need to be appreciated within its context.

To be a Russian in the late 1930s meant living a life entirely constructed and revolving around fear. Stalinism worked as terrorism: the regime inflicted fear for the sake of inflicting fear itself. It was impressively and horrifyingly successful. People were not only scared of their government, but of each other as well. Deep mistrust was planted by persuading the public to denounce their fellow citizens as enemies of the state. Because, to justify oppression, the state had to have enemies. When they did not exist, the state made its own people the enemy, whether or not the allegations had any basis at all. In this environment one ceased to live, merely to survive. In a country spanning two continents, every man became an island.

It was in this bleak world in which Dmitri Shostakovich read a scathing review of his beautifully experimental and satirical opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk on 28th January 1936. That review, although officially anonymous, was thought by all to be written by Stalin himself; the article, entitled ‘Chaos instead of Music’, threatened ‘very bad’ consequences if he didn’t abandon his pessimistic, avant-garde style (with haste). The effect of these few words is nearly impossible to quantify. Shostakovich was immediately shunned by almost everybody he knew. People crossed the street to avoid him. He was listed in the press as an enemy of the people. To know him was dangerous; to associate with him, near-suicidal. His brother-in-law, mother-in-law and uncle were all taken away. Shostakovich was not yet thirty. He had little money and his wife was pregnant. He kept a small suitcase packed for the time when the expected arrest would come.

In reaction to his attack, Shostakovich instantly withdrew his Fourth Symphony from rehearsals, fearing that the cynical introspection would prove far too unpalatable for the consumption of Russian officials. On the basis of this knowledge, the Fifth’s palpable air of protest is all the more admirable.

The opening motif of the first movement sets the precedent for the rest of the symphony: a rising interval immediately invalidated by a falling one, a juxtaposition of aspiration and exhaustion. The canon between the upper and lower strings trudges beneath a deeply melancholy melody in the first violins, building towards a brief climax before the bassoons and basses repeat the first motif, in a leaden and grotesque augmentation. We are thrown into a world in a constant battle of melancholy and mechanism. The second subject is defined by the habanera rhythm in the accompanying strings: a subtle tribute to Bizet’s “L’amour est un oiseau rebelle”, from Carmen. Conductor Vladimir Spivakov theorised that this may be a comment on love in a communist society. After all, what space is left for love in the well oiled machine of Stalin’s regime? The apparent sonata form is rudely interrupted by the central section: a grotesque march. It gathers in speed as more and more people join in and you feel that this machine’s inexorable journey towards catastrophe cannot be avoided. The state is gathering all before it and marching everybody off into a world devoid of humanity. Shostakovich resists and, in what appears as a superhuman act of will, a huge unison restatement of the opening sad and personal theme, this time fortissimo and liberated, brings the march to a halt. Perhaps it is possible to withstand a regime’s oppression; perhaps there could be freedom after all. But at the climax the marching rhythms fight back and it appears that they are the victors after all. As the army departs you hear their distant fanfares and all that is left of the people’s resistance is a lonely weeping violin solo. Maybe that will be enough. Certainly the battle is not yet over.

The Scherzo is one of the most bitingly satirical movements Shostakovich has ever penned. Opening with heavy-footed, sunken dance rhythms, the expected dance-like character isn’t immediately apparent. Shostakovich subverts this with a trite and excessively saccharin violin melody, which is usurped by the orchestra, transforming it into a galumphing parody of itself.

The Largo is the emotional core of the Fifth Symphony, and its power lies in its poignant melodies. Shostakovich chooses to exclude the brasses. Wistful cries from the oboe, a sobbing upwelling of notes from the clarinet, and a brief comment from the flute follow before the whole orchestra comes together, amidst quivering string tremolos, in heart-wrenching sadness. The pain is unbearable at times but it is not unhappy music, just deeply, deeply sad. If it is at all possible to pay tribute to every one of the seven million executions that it is estimated that Stalin ordered between 1935 and 1941, Shostakovich has done so. After all the anger and sorrow the overriding but unanswerable question is ‘Why?’.

The finale treads the fine line between sincerity and cynicism, also giving us the only concrete evidence of Shostakovich’s attitude when writing the symphony. In the period between the withdrawal of his Fourth and the writing of the Fifth, Shostakovich privately set a series of poems by Alexander Pushkin to music. The most notable of these is the poem ‘Rebirth’:

An artist-barbarian with his lazy brush
Blackens the painting of a genius
And senselessly he covers it with
His own illegitimate drawing.

But with the passing years, the alien colours
Fall off like threadbare scales;
The creation of the genius emerges
before us in its former beauty

Thus vanish the illusions
From my tormented soul
And in it appear visions
Of original and innocent times.

The appropriateness of this poem isn’t hard to miss. Shostakovich directly ‘quotes’ this in this movement, giving a slither of concrete evidence free of interpretation. As the harps play, it seems there is a possibility of surviving, the rebirth of a whole people is not an impossible utopia. Time has passed, the lies of the Stalin regime have finally crumbled, the truth has emerged. Shostakovich saw the future and was brave enough to depict it, however cryptically he needed in order to survive. In this sense the coda of the work is a victory but it is a victory against Stalin, not for him. Music’s innate ambiguity was to be Shostakovich’s saving. There is no way he would have been able to pretend to give Stalin the upbeat ending he insisted on in any other medium. Stalin demanded exultation. ‘What exultation could there be?’ Shostakovich is quoted as saying in Testimony, his memoirs.

It’s recorded that the premiere received a 40 minute standing ovation. Many of the audience were in tears. Fundamentally they were tears of gratitude that someone had had the extraordinary courage and ability to write about their times in a way that was true but also permissible. They had a voice after all. The repeated notes that end the work are shocking. That they are repeated 252 times is a sign that Shostakovich knew the battle would be a long time in winning. He knew there would be millions more deaths before the truth was discovered. Listening today to the music it is hard to imagine how anyone could have been taken in by Shostakovich’s double speak. Perhaps they weren’t. Perhaps even Stalin realised that on this occasion he had been outwitted and had no choice but to let the people’s champion get away with it. With this work Shostakovich was able to usher in a cease-fire. Unfortunately, it was not to last long.

Matthew Igoe, Divisions