King Edward's Music

Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham

Charlotte Howdle on Sibelius

Jean Sibelius (1865 – 1957):  Violin concerto in D minor, op. 47

i. Allegro moderato 

ii. Adagio di molto 

iii. Allegro, ma non tanto 

 It was in 1903, with his successful second symphony behind him, that the Finnish composer, Sibelius, wrote his violin concerto. It was the only concerto he ever composed and had long been promised to Willy Burmester, a prominent soloist of the day. Sibelius was himself a violin virtuoso and described as a “genius” by one of his teachers in Helsinki. However, he appeared to have lost confidence and it was not without regret that he accepted his future as a composer rather than a violinist. This concerto was written during one of the most turbulent periods of his life where he was a heavy drinker and had mounting debts. His wife had regularly to  seek him out and take him from the fashionable clubs and bars of Helsinki to encourage him to work on the score. Once completed, he could not afford to fly Burmester to Finland to perform the piece and therefore he asked the Czech violinist Victor Nováček to play it. However, Nováček was not equal to the technical challenges of the work and the concerto met with incomprehension and disapproval; one critic of the time writing, “a red-faced and perspiring Nováček fought a losing battle with a solo part that bristled with … great difficulties.” After the lacklustre debut, Sibelius revised and condensed the work and Burmester again offered to play it, writing, “All of my twenty-five years’ stage experience, my artistry and insight will be at the service of this work … I shall play the concerto in Helsinki in such a way that the city will be at your feet.” However, Sibelius’ German publisher wanted Karl Halir, a violinist and the concertmaster in Berlin, to undertake the solo part and Sibelius agreed. Burmester was understandably outraged and vowed never to play the work, a promise which he kept. The revised version was heard in 1905, Richard Strauss conducting the Berlin Philharmonic.

Despite the frailties displayed by Sibelius in his personal life, there are no signs of weakness in the concerto. That said, there is certainly Nordic melancholy, and powerful emotions are expressed throughout. The concerto follows the classical tradition and retains the usual three-movement form. The soloist takes charge from the beginning of the expansive first movement with a long lyrical paragraph which is beautifully shaped over the tapestry of the accompanying divided violins. The second theme is impassioned, initially appearing in the orchestra, anticipated by the bassoons and clarinets, and taken up by the solo part.  This is followed by the orchestra’s introduction of a third thematic idea. Sibelius replaces the development section with a solo cadenza and this is followed by a recapitulation. An aching nostalgia is displayed in the three-part second movement, a woodwind introduction with a melody in thirds preparing for the broad, singing theme of the solo violin. The mood changes dramatically at the opening of the third and final movement which is a restless scherzo in rondo form. Over the rhythmic ostinato of the orchestra, the virtuosity of the violin is displayed most clearly, often in the violin’s highest range and the strong march-like tune passes back and forth between violin and orchestra. Its dance-like energy prompted the British musicologist, Donald Francis Tovey, to describe it as a “polonaise for polar bears.” However, this was clearly not intended to be derogatory as he went on: “In the … looser concerto forms invented by Mendelssohn and Schumann, I have not met a more original, a more masterly and a more exhilarating work than the Sibelius violin concerto”.

Charlotte Howdle, Upper Sixths

 

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

Instrumental Evening – woodwind and brass

Image result for woodwind and brass

Monday, 25 February 2019 at 1800

Ruddock Performing Arts Centre

An informal concert given by woodwind and brass players from King Edward’s School and King Edward VI High School for Girls.

Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham

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

 

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.

Lunchtime Recital

Thursday, 7 February 2019 at 13.10
Ruddock Performing Arts Centre

Samantha Burley violin
Junias Wong violin
Saffron Pougher flute
Enoch Cheung violin

works by Bloch, Elgar, Kreisler, Harty, Sibelius, and two Bachs 

Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham

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

 

Peter & the Wolf: melting icy hearts

 

 

Peter & the Wolf: Elms Farm Primary School

Pupils from Elms Farm Primary School followed the story of Snow Maiden. These are just some of the chalk drawings they have created.

Peter & the Wolf: creating music together


 

 

Peter & the Wolf: Brownmead Academy

King Edward’s pupils and pupils from Brownmead Academy worked together to create some wonderful music.

Peter & the Wolf: magical world

 

 

Peter & the Wolf: The Oval Primary School  

Pupils from the Oval Primary School have recreated some of the Cinderella magic.

Peter & the Wolf: construction

 

 

 

Peter & the Wolf: Hallmoor School 

Hallmoor School students have immersed themselves into the world of Hensel and Gretel. They built some beautiful houses.

Peter & the Wolf: young artists

Peter & the Wolf: Hillstone Primary School

Pupils at Hillstone Primary School have created some truly marvellous paintings in readiness for their performance on 5 February.

Peter and the Wolf: pupils hard at work

Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham -- Peter and the Wolf


Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham: Peter and the Wolf

Peter & the Wolf: Bourville and Tiverton Primary Schools

Pupils at Bourville and Tiverton Primary schools are working very hard on their composition pieces to be performed on 5 February at the Ruddock Hall.

This is just the taster of the musical soundscape they created. We are all very excited to hear their live performance!

 

Peter and the Wolf and The Firebird

 


Peter & the Wolf and the Firebird
The Ruddock Hall
1800, Tuesday, 5 February 2019

There’s a very special event at King Edward’s next week. At 1800 on Tuesday, 5 February, KES/KEHS Symphony Orchestra will perform Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, followed by the 1919 suite from Stravinsky’s Firebird.

Both works are highly colourful, paint vivid pictures of characters, tell stories of the imagination. Capitalising on this, we have invited James Mayhew, author, illustrator, and artist, to perform with us. He will narrate Peter, and, at the same time, paint pictures of the stories live with the music. It’s hard to describe, but, once seen, it’s an extra-ordinary experience, quite impossible to forget.

The performance lasts only for an hour, and the early start means that it’s a perfect evening for children of all ages.

Tickets, priced £5, are available at:

https://www.ruddockpac.co.uk

If you would like to come straight from school to the Ruddock Hall, we offer a children’s picnic tea at 1715. The combined price for tea and concert is £8.50.

It’s going to be a really special evening.

Instrumental Evening – piano and voice

Image result for singing classical piano cartoon picture

Monday 14 January 2019 at 18.00

Ruddock Performing Arts Centre

An informal concert given by pianists and singers from King Edward’s School and King Edward VI High School for Girls.

Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham

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

 

Lunchtime Recital

Thursday, 10 January 2019 at 13.10
Ruddock Performing Arts Centre

Ella Mason, trumpet
Renee Chang, violin

works by Bozza, Büsser and Saint-Saëns 

Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham

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

 

Players from the CBSO record the Fifths’ string quartets.

Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham -- CBSO recordings of boys' string quartets

Knowing the score

So………..serialism. That great musical genre, of harmony, tunefulness and beautifulness. Unfortunately, it wasn’t anything like that. Our compositions were full of increasingly obscure intervals and notes which clash and produce a dissonance that would usually mean your music is awful. But no, not serialism. It can sound as unusual and un-’musical’ as you want. I think that’s the really interesting aspect of our compositions is that we can break the majority of the rules we thought existed. Thus, the creations had rhythms that were harder to notate than play, titles which seemed like the composer was going mad while writing them and notes which had no musical bearing to their surroundings, save the matrix which we so faithfully trusted.

Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham -- CBSO recordings of boys' string quartets (4)

Trust the Matrix

We embarked on our ‘creations’ towards the end of our fourth year and finally at the end of the autumn term in fifths our pieces got recorded by a remarkable set of players: Kate Suthers, CBSO principal second violin; Kate Oswin, CBSO first violin; Adam Römer, CBSO principal viola; Richard Jenkinson, ex-CBSO ‘cello, Mark Walkem, double bass extraordinaire and Sara Wilander, pianist of note. On that Friday, these players all came together to give life to our pieces and a recording of our pieces that even the titan of Sibelius (the musical composition software not the man himself…) could reproduce.

Arush’s piece Twisted Flamingoes, untwisted into particularly difficult slow triplet minims. We then had a sad moment when Rohan’s Orangutans died, so we had to play them a funeral piece, which was handily composed by Rohan. Then as time flew along we had Louis’ Tempus, and no sooner had we started the baroque-styled piece we moved on. We then had Heftigkeit (violence) by Gokul, which was lost over the summer and then refound (i.e. Gokul re-wrote it). We then tamed Jacob’s Wild Beasts, which turned out to be the middle strings.

Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham -- CBSO recordings of boys' string quartets (2)

Written the night before?

Then, we had the piano pieces. These came about due to our rebellious nature: Dr Leigh said do a string quartet, so I did a piano sextet, Shirom a piano trio and Jiaqi a piano quartet. I got the prize for the longest title being: A three legged waltz, a bridge, hell and back again. Then Shirom had his Notes- The exploration of serialism through the transcendence of life and love, which had some interesting rhythms and some challenging double stopping that even the CBSO found tricky. Finally Jiaqi, the most rebellious one. He had a ‘normal’ piece after giving up on his serialist one. It had a piano part that wouldn’t be amiss in a Rachmaninov prelude and had some recognisable motifs, at least to the CBSO.

Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham -- CBSO recordings of boys' string quartets (3)

Hell and back?

So, all I need do now is say thank you to the players and to Dr. Leigh for making this happen.

 

George Roberts, Fifths

Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham

Churcher on Widmann

Jӧrg Widmann is a contemporary German composer, clarinettist and conductor. His music has received great critical acclaim and his reputation is such that he took the position of Composer in Residence at the Lucerne Festival in 2009. He has also received many awards for his work, most recently the prestigious Robert Schumann Prize for Poetry and Music. Widmann currently holds the position of professor of composition at the Barenboim–Said Akademie, Berlin and he is currently finishing his tenure as the 2017-2018 artist in residence at the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

180 beats per minute (1993) was composed shortly after Widmann left school and it was inspired by the rhythmic drive and constant pulse changes of “techno beat” music, which was very popular at the time. As suggested by the title, the piece is played at 180 beats per minute throughout, although constant syncopation and pulse changes counter any potential rigid, metronomic elements. The piece is a study on a single chord which is varied throughout the entire piece. About half way through the piece, the first violin announces the subject of a canon, which wanders through all of the instruments whilst still playing beguilingly with oscillating major and minor thirds.  In the words of Widmann himself, “The work makes no claims to be more than the sum of its parts – the sheer enjoyment of rhythm.”

Christopher Churcher, Fourths