King Edward's Music

Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham

Tag: Music Department King Edward’s School

Music Calendar 2020 – 2021

Christopher Churcher’s ‘Always the Bridesmaid’ composed at The Sound and Music Summer School 2019

Christopher Churcher's 'Always the Bridesmaid' (Music Department at King Edward's School, Birmingham)

Christopher Churcher's 'Always the Bridesmaid' (Music Department at King Edward's School, Birmingham) (2)

A PDF is posted here: Christopher Churcher’s ‘Always the Bridesmaid’



Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham

The Sound and Music Summer School 2019

On the 4th of August, I arrived apprehensively with around 60 other composers from all across the UK at the Purcell School in Hertfordshire. We were all there to attend the annual week-long Summer school run by Sound and Music, the UK charity for new music. Having applied last April, I was lucky enough to be given a place, and was allocated to the ‘Vocal composition’ group (there were also others, including Film, Instrumental, Jazz and Cross-Cultural). By the end of the week, there were over 60 brand new compositions written, performed and recorded!

In the vocal composition group, I was able to work with six professional singers, after several days of exploring different types of vocal music, from the madness of Cathy Berberian’s ‘Stripsody’ to the comparative minimalism of Laurence Crane. We then had just 3 days to compose and rehearse our compositions until the recording session and, finally, performances.

As the creative process began, I took a newfound interest in Swedish folksong, something with which I was unacquainted beforehand, but which I found really haunting and bewitching. With the help of one of the tutors, who was very knowledgeable about the techniques used in Swedish folksong, I learnt about specific techniques such as Kulning, as well as traditional Swedish vocal ornamentation and the modes that Swedish folksong traditionally explores. 

Struck by fleeting inspiration, I decided to combine a Swedish folk-inspired vocal line with the singing bowl (a type of bell that vibrates and produces a rich, deep tone when played) which one of our tutors had brought with them. This constant drone created the illusion that the singer’s line was almost suspended in mid-air, yet always in relation to the drone, which the voice slowly materialises out of at the start of the piece and disappears back into at the end.

I absolutely loved the Sound and Music Summer School and would fully recommend it to any composer looking to gain experience working with professional musicians or hoping to expose themself to a really wide range of intra-classical styles.

Christopher Churcher, Fifths



Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham

Summer with Notebenders

Music at King Edward's School -- Notebenders

It’s been another amazing summer for Notebenders, the Ladywood based community big band.  First, a main-stage slot at the Moseley Jazz Festival in Moseley Park, a hidden gem just off the high street. It was a slightly nerve-wracking, but exciting feeling looking out over the crowd; I’m glad we were all in it together.

Next, the Birchfield Jazz Festival, a smaller, friendlier event with delicious, home-made Jamaican and African food in a local church.  The acoustics were incredible and the reception genuinely warm. 

Finally, the renowned big band afternoon at the Spotted Dog in Digbeth, an annual gathering of rowdy jazz fanatics.  As well as awesome music (check out the incredible jazz flautist, Gareth Lokrane), there was a ready supply of great food and, for those of us playing, a free bar!

The best thing is being part of the music-making and coming together with some brilliant musicians to have fun. Roll on next year!

Owen Swanborough, Removes



Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham

From Choral and Orchestral Concerts, 11 March 2019

Photograthy by David Ash @


From Choral and Orchestral Concerts, 11 March 2019

Huge thanks to David Ash @ for lovely memento of our spring concerts.


Recording with Notebenders



Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham

Recording with Notebenders

It’s been a very special year for The Notebenders Big Band, with many events celebrating what would have been the 100thbirthday of its founder, the jazz saxophonist, Andy Hamilton. We’ve performed at a concert for Andy at the Town Hall, done our monthly gigs at Symphony Hall, taken part in the Big Band Day at the Spotted Dog and played for a day with Birmingham Conservatoire jazz students at the Eastside Jazz Club.

In October we cut our first professionally produced CD at the Conservatoire Recording Studio.  It was an incredibly exciting, hectic and truly exhausting day, and my first experience of the fascinating world of recording and music tech. The day started with a sound check where we had to try out a few phrases of our choice. Then we worked our way through the tunes, often having several goes to get each one right; one required ten attempts – not one I was in, fortunately!

I also learnt how to while away the hours when you’re not needed with the help of great friends, pizza and highly-competitive rounds of UNO!

Now we just have to wait while all the mixing and other magic is done – can’t wait to hear the finished product and find out what they’ve done with my solo!

Owen Swanborough (Shells)

Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham

Lauren Zhang, BBC Young Musician 2018

King Edward's School, Birmingham, music department: Lauren Zhang, BBC Young Musician 2018

There is still time to enjoy Lauren Zhang’s triumph in BBC Young Musician 2018. The final is available on the BBC’s iPlayer, which you can visit by clicking on this link:

Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham

Lauren Zhang a finalist in BBC Young Musician 2018


Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham, BBC Young Musician 2018

We are very proud to announce that Lauren Zhang, a pianist from KEHS, is a finalist in BBC Young Musician 2018. She has elected to play Prokofiev’s Second Piano Concerto, and will perform with the CBSO conducted by Mark Wigglesworth.

You can see the final on BBC4 television at 1900 on Sunday, 13 May and hear it on BBC Radio 3.

We wish her well in this great adventure.

You can read more about the finalists in BBC Young Musician at:

Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham

King Edward’s School at the first night of the BBC Proms

Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham: performances in the BBC Promenade concerts.

Tom Coult: St John’s Dance (BBC commission: world premiere)
Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Concerto No 3 in C minor
John Adams: Harmonium

Igor Levit, piano
BBC Proms Youth Choir
BBC Symphony Chorus
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Edward Gardner, conductor

Richard Franklin, Haine Hock, Abhinav Jain, David Millross, and former King Edward’s boys sing Adams’s extra-ordinary Harmonium as part of the Proms Youth Choir in the first night of the Proms. The performance is a celebration of John Adams’s seventieth birthday this year.

The concert is in the Royal Albert Hall, and will be broadcast on BBC television and radio. You can read more on the BBC Proms website.


Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham

Tonight: King Edward’s School at the BBC Proms

Marin Alsop conducting Last Night of the Proms -- Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham

Prom 72  9 September 
Jedidiah Cheung, James Cleasbsy, Richard Franklin, Haine Hock, Edward Hodge, Aaron Jackson, Abhinav Jain, David Millross, Angus Forshaw, Miles McCollum, and Michael Ollerenshaw are part of the Proms Youth Choir, singing Verdi’s Requiem. The incomparable Marin Alsop conducts.

This concert is broadcast live at 1930 on BBC4 television, as well as on BBC Radio 3.



Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham

King Edward’s School at the BBC Proms

Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham: performances in the BBC  Promenade concerts.

Prom 29 — 6 August
Jedidiah Cheung and Philip Edwards are members of National Youth Orchestra, which plays Richard Strauss, Schiphorst, Holst, and Matthews in Prom 29, conducted by Edward Gardner.

Prom 72  9 September 
Jedidiah Cheung, James Cleasbsy, Richard Franklin, Haine Hock, Edward Hodge, Aaron Jackson, Abhinav Jain, David Millross, Angus Forshaw, Miles McCollum, and Michael Ollerenshaw are part of the Proms Youth Choir, singing Verdi’s Requiem. The incomparable Marin Alsop conducts.



Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham

The National Youth Orchestra at Symphony Hall

 King Edward's School, Birmingham in the NYO Summer 2016 Poster

Friday, 5 August
Symphony Hall, Birmingham
National Youth Orchestra / Edward Gardner

Please support King Edward’s boys as they play as part of the National Youth Orchestra.

The orchestra writes:

‘Open your ears to the music of the universe as the world’s greatest orchestra of teenagers embarks on a voyage back through a century of space discovery.

The journey begins with Gravitational Waves by German composer Iris ter Schiphorst. This is music for the here and now, for the beginning of a new era in astronomy. Fasten your seat belts and prepare for a thrilling ride to new musical frontiers as the original sound of the gravitational wave echoes through the orchestra and individual players gradually become one united force.

Next are two of classical music’s must-hear pieces: Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra, with its glorious, spine-tingling opening fanfare made famous by Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Holst’s The Planets completed by Colin Matthews’ Pluto: The Renewer. This music never fails to stir the emotions with its huge melodies and luscious harmonies and in the hands of these young musicians, it will fizz with an explosive, barely containable energy.

The countdown is on – join us for a fearless, totally teenage cosmic adventure.’

You can read more about the National Youth Orchestra by visiting their website.

Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham

To Leipzig with Birmingham Cathedral Choir

King Edward's School, Birmingham, Music Department

The Thomaskirche in Leipzig.

1. The Adventure begins!

As our 52 brave explorers checked in at the airport, they knew there was no going back.

Five of these were in the charge of their chaperone Andrew Thompson (nicknamed ‘His Majesty’). These individuals were called Ocean, Joshua, Yuhan, Remi and Christopher. After they had survived security, they all set out on the flight. Several books and a phone were what many of them had to survive on. After more security in Germany the group was free to embark on the final flight until they landed in Leipzig.

The first big task after the coach journey was to sort out who had which bed. This proved to be easier for some. Many ran into the room and sorted it out by who sat on which bed first.

2. Thomaskirche

After the first night, three of our heroes, Joshua, Ocean and Christopher had their hunger satiated by the ample food at the breakfast buffet. Our 52 voyagers were separated because half of them had filled up a tram and the others were left behind. The courageous leaders, Andrew and Canon Janet safely led the stragglers to the Thomaskirche (St. Thomas’s Church) where they would sing. The Thomaskirche was the church where Bach was the organist for nearly 30 years!

Two practices and one lunch were enjoyed until the big moment. The first performance on the tour began… it was thrilling although somewhat nerve-racking. The amazing acoustics were startling to our choir as they have recently become used to echoes being dampened by scaffolding at Birmingham Cathedral. The acoustics especially enhanced the Bairstow Anthem called ‘Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence’. After the first few pieces the choristers settled down and found that the hour and a bit seemed to last a much shorter period than Sunday evensong! The 650 people they performed to had queued up for the concert 45 minutes, and some people were turned away because the church was full.

3. Thomaskirche again

Sunday was to be the last day of formal choral activities. The Choristers sang a truly beautiful piece called ‘If ye love me’ by Thomas Tallis. They also sang the hymn by Bach, ‘Ach Mein Gott Himmel Sieh Darein’ that contained many complicated German words. The morning service contained a good opportunity for those that had a disturbed night to sleep as possibly the longest sermon ever took place there-what’s more, in German!

4. Naumburg

After the service, they were free to roam in the hotel until they went to Naumburg Cathedral. People used this opportunity in different ways. Possible activities included, chatting, reading, sleeping, watching a film about Colditz, playing cards etc. The clock was ticking away minutes like seconds, and the 2 or 3-hour break seemed to only take 20 – 30 minutes. Still, an hour coach journey was an opportunity seized by those in possession of a DS (which is an electronic device that you can play games on).

Many of the choristers were pleased as the Naumburg concert had the Hallelujah Chorus on the schedule! A quick tour around the site revealed many interesting facts about it.

The concert was raising money for refugees and in the audience was some people that had come from Afghanistan and, because people are not allowed to sing there, they had never heard singing and were blown away by the experience! Conceivably, the most challenging thing that the choristers had to do on the whole trip was to eat the whole of the main course at a nearby restaurant. It consisted of lots of pork in the form of steaks and dumplings. This challenge, many of them failed dismally.

5. Off to prison

As the title suggests, the travelling people got put inside the four walls of Colditz. During the second world war, Colditz was used camp for unco-operative soldiers who had a habit of being good escape artists. The guide told some entertaining stories of escape attempts and devices used to help them escape, such as a puppet and a glider fixed together with porridge! As a group, the tourists all enjoyed the visit very much.

6. The Final Day.

Sadly, Tuesday was the final day of the tour. This day, however, was the day of the Bach museum, something that many had been anticipating for a while. The Bach museum contained several original manuscripts of his pieces! There was an exhibition of his organ with all of the stops and pedals and an exhibition of Baroque instruments. Such as the Bassono Grosso (A bassoon), the theorbo (a type of Baroque guitar) and the lute (similar to the theorbo but smaller). There were several computers with the full works of Bach to search through at leisure and listen to via headphones which definitely made it a massive highlight for most.

The final experience was a delicious lunch at the Panorama Tower restaurant, 29 floors up! The group sang former Leipzig resident Felix Mendelssohn’s Kyrie Eleison much to the enjoyment of our Leipzig hosts. Thanks to the Birmingham city council for arranging this as Birmingham and Leipzig are twinned.

The 52 adventurers then made their way back to the airport. The five heroes were very tired but thrilled by their exploits in Leipzig.

Thanks a lot to Andrew for giving them a right royal time!

Christopher Churcher (Shell)

Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham

On tour with the National Youth Orchestra

Music department at King Edward's School, Birmingham

Sir Mark Elder and the author

To say the concert tour I just went on with the National Youth Orchestra was amazing would be an understatement. We performed at 4 different venues in 2 countries: Snape Maltings concert hall in Aldeburgh on the beautiful Suffolk marshes; a greatly resonant Symphony Hall in Birmingham; at the prestigious BBC Proms in the Royal Albert Hall in London; and finally at the impressive Konzerthaus in Berlin as part of a European youth music festival rather like the Proms.

Today I will tell you about the last two concerts. The story begins in Birmingham, right after our successful concert in a well-occupied Symphony Hall. We climb onboard coaches to London, and arrive around half past midnight at the Imperial College accommodation, me not realising just how near the Albert Hall was! As it turns out, the next morning, after a long lie in, it is our (temporary) next door neighbour. We practise our programme intensively, not because we need to improve it, solely in order to adjust to the slightly cathedral-like acoustic and make sure the balance of strings and winds is tuned. The BBC also ask us to play certain parts so they can practise filming us for the concert.

Our programme for this third course of the year is no simple affair; we are playing our own new commission by ex-BBC Young Composer of the Year, Tansy Davies, called “Re-greening” (about the entry of spring), and finally, the gargantuan, momentous Ninth Symphony by Mahler, whose meaning is still a hot topic of discussion among knowledgeable music scholars. A good programme is nothing without a great conductor, but we have a true master of the orchestra conducting us: Sir Mark Elder. His eye for detail and broad knowledge and interpretation of the Mahler significantly contributed to our huge success.

The two pieces in our programme are, on face value, fundamentally different: the Mahler is conducted and has a more rigid style, while the Tansy Davies is led by various parts of the orchestra and has a freer style. However, having played and practised both for many, many hours, it becomes clear just how the pieces unite, almost subconsciously. The length of the Mahler (almost one-and-a-half hours) lends itself to there being more meanings and stories within it that are each more subtly revealed, but the Tansy Davies, for its length, crams in a lot of material too, even including singing by orchestra members while they are playing.

Back to the Albert Hall and the fruits of our two-week-long labour are paying off for the third time. Although the concert is not only being filmed for showing next week, but is also being broadcast live on the radio, the seven concerts that all 165 of us have already played together this year bind us together into a mass of confident musicians. The Tansy Davies, seeing its London premiere, is greatly appreciated by the enthusiastic audience of our sold out concert. The composer joins us on the stage to take a bow, and shortly afterwards, we start the Mahler. But not without a sustained length of silence beforehand, to set the atmosphere for a piece that some say documents Mahler’s forecast of his death (which he had little medical warning about), and others say is about his thankfulness for what he had had in his life until this point, as a sort of “farewell” for his inevitable eventual death.

The symphony has four movements: the first is the longest, at over 25 minutes long, and is unusually slow for a first movement; the next is a typical, relaxed German country waltz, perhaps alluding to Mahler’s rustic beginnings; meanwhile, right at the start of the score for the third, Mahler dedicates it to “my brothers in Apollo”, which many take as a jab against Austrian music critics who doubted his ability to write contrapuntally, hence a complex movement unfolds; finally, after over a tiring hour of music, Mahler asks the orchestra to bring up yet more energy, though this time more in intensity than sheer volume, for the deathly last movement, which references his own Kindertotenlieder (Songs on the death of children).

After we finish the last dying chord, there is silence in the hall, for a full 15 seconds. A standing ovation ensues.

The next morning, we leave bright and early to catch our flight to Berlin (most of which is occupied by us!), though not without a long wait for checking in all of us. When we arrive, the heat stifles us, as it is already nearly 30°C, but worse is to come! After arriving at our centrally located hostel, we amble through the historic city’s streets, and already that evening witness a lot of history. On the day of the concert, we have the morning off again to visit the city, but the sweltering 36°C heat prevents us from seeing too much, so we mainly stay in coffee shops, drinking cold drinks. In the afternoon, we have our final rehearsal of the year, with all of us loving the ideal acoustic of the Konzerthaus; as Sir Mark puts it, why can’t London have a hall like this, with such a great acoustic?

The concert here goes very well, in fact, so well that some people clap straight after the end of the last movement, before holding silence, this time for nearly 30 seconds. Finally, the audience claps for 10 minutes solid, and there is not a single person not standing in the auditorium.

We are all reduced to tears. 9 concerts over 8 months: it is incredibly emotional for us all. We say our goodbyes onstage as soon as the audience leaves, because a number of people are leaving the course now to meet their parents in Berlin, and to explore the city further.

The rest of us retreat to our cool hostel. Over breakfast the next morning we say our parting farewells (as we are split up from hereon), and leave for the airport. Upon arriving back in London, we wish each other the best of luck, hoping to meet again in the following year and we congratulate each other a final time for our extensive accomplishments.

Philip Edwards (Fifths)

You can read more about the National Youth Orchestra by visiting their website.

Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham