First Notes from Strings Ensemble

The Grade 7/8 Strings Ensemble held its first concert this week, performing for a packed hall of parents, staff, the Grade 6 Strings class and former Head of School John Schaffter, for whom the music building is named. The students amazed the audience with their professional playing only two months into the school year.

Teacher and conductor Mary Smith began the concert with a fiddle tune medley, joking that after her musicians are in more academic classes, she finds “fiddle tunes get them going again.” The high-pace medley was followed by a Baroque piece called Canzon and Fuga, which the students played as one piece though its two parts were published separately. Mrs. Smith introduced the third piece by saying, “there were several composers who wrote musical prayers.” J.S. Bach’s “Ave Maria,” which the Grade 8 violin and viola players performed, is one such prayer.

For “The Swan” from Carnival of the Animals by French Romantic composer Camille Saint-Saëns, Brian Yam and Candice Ip performed on the cello and piano, respectively. Grade 7 student Viviam Lam also played an astonishing piano solo, the intricate and varied “Fantasy” by Chopin. A movement of the violin concerto in A minor by Vivaldi was delivered with aplomb by Ella Hayashi.

“I try to do a piece by Mozart every year,” said Mrs. Smith, as she introduced “Ave Verum Corpus,” which was written as a tribute to Pope Innocent VI in the 14th century. The students studied the piece both by listening to a Vienna boys’ choir recording in Latin and by learning to play the version they performed. Lastly, the ensemble played a second Bach piece, “Prelude,” followed by a Hungarian Dance.

“It’s because of Headmaster John Schaffter, who supported the music programme, that this building exists,” said Mrs. Smith in her closing remarks. She encouraged the visitors to explore the John and Anne Schaffter Hall, which hosts both Middle and Senior School music classes.

The Grade 8 strings students also performed at the Junior School Remembrance Day ceremony this week, and will perform on December 9th at Berwick House Royal Oak. The Grade 6 strings students will play on November 18th in the Middle School chapel service and the Grade 7 strings ensemble will perform at Highgate Lodge on December 10th.

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