This has been a very busy year for the Schola that has seen the choir make two tours abroad, record two CDs, sing several concerts, and, of course, sing each and every week at the School’s Mass. At the Foundation Day Mass at Westminster Cathedral in September the choir sang music by Vierne and Philips. The choir sang a beautiful Service of Evensong at Ely Cathedral in October (music by Victoria, Holst and Stanford) and also for a very moving service to mark Remembrance Sunday at Holy Trinity, Sloane Square (music by Dyson, Guest and Ireland). We returned to Westminster Cathedral for the Feast of Christ the King at the end of November (music by Schubert, Philips and Guerrero) and also made our annual visit to Nazareth House (music by Palestrina, Byrd and carols).
The Schola travelled to Spain in half-term, giving concerts in the Cathedrals of Burgos and Salamanca and singing for services in both Salamanca and Zamora. This was a very lovely few days, marked by a real focus on the singing, with the boys working very hard to improve at each of our events. The boys were great company too and impeccably behaved; we are blessed with a particularly outstanding Upper Sixth in the Schola at the moment that set a very fine example to the younger boys.
At the end of term the Schola gave what has become its annual performance of Handel’s Messiah, this year in the splendid setting of St John’s, Smith Square. It was very pleasing that we drew such a large audience that evening and the choir gave a strong performance of this wonderful work that it so loves to sing. The most notable thing was no doubt the 21 boys who stepped out to sing the solos – they received a well deserved ovation at the end when they all gathered at the front of the stage. The Carol Service was very strong this year with some beautiful singing from the choir – most striking amongst the carols was perhaps James Whitburn’s The Magi’s Dream. As always, Our Lady of Victories was full to capacity for this most important event in the School, and the Schola’s year.
In the Lent Term the Schola sang for Ash Wednesday services when the choir sang a rather good performance of the Allegri Miserere with super top cs from Sam Lyne-Hall. The start of the year saw the boys singing for some interesting commercial work including recording the music for the opening ceremony of the Special World Games held in Dubai in March, and also for the soundtrack of the film Rocket Manabout Elton John that was released in May. Very excitingly, the choir recorded a new CD of its own at the end of January, our first recording for four years. The CD is a collection of British music, including works by Elgar, Britten and Stanford as well as the first recording of the piece written for the Schola by Sir James MacMillan as part of the School’s Centenary Celebration in 2014. The CD will be available later in the year.
The Schola travelled to New College, Oxford to sing Evensong in February – we have a proud tradition of providing singers for the choir there - and also sang for Mass at Westminster Cathedral for the Vigil Mass of the first Sunday of Lent. The choir gave a concert at St Peter’s, Eaton Square towards the end of March which provided opportunity for us to perform for the first time Bach’s setting of the Magnificat
The Summer term saw the boys return to Covent Garden, providing the chorus boys for Britten’s Billy Buddand Puccini’s Tosca. Ruari Bagge-Hansen and Tadhg Fitzgerald shared the important role of Cabin Boy in Billy Budd whilst Joseph Guzman Santamaria sang the famous off-stage Shepherd Boy solo in Tosca. Work in rehearsals was dominated by the preparation of the music for a CD recording we had been asked to make for Evidence Classics, a French recording company. A wide selection of music was recorded over three days ranging from Victoria and Mozart to selections from Lord of the Rings and even a song by Vangelis! The CD is due for release in November and the Schola will travel to Paris for the launch concert beign given at Les Invalides, burial place of Napoleon. The choir also sang a concert raising money for the Cardinal Hume Centre in July, performing the Fauré Requiem and other works at St James’s, Spanish Place, alongside soprano Mary Bevan MBE.
The end of the Summer Term also saw the choir travel to Germany for its second tour of the year, singing a series of concerts in Leipzig and the surrounding area. This included performing at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, famous for its association with JS Bach and his final resting place. It was very memorable to perform Bach in this most revered church, in the presence of his mortal remains. The choir also sang at the Martketkirche in Halle, where Handel grew up and gave a joint Vespers service in the Dresden Catholic Cathedral with the Dresden Knabenchor.
As always, the final word must be thanks to everyone who makes the Schola possible; the singing teachers, Miss Dymott, Miss Morrison, Miss Gabriel Mr Clarkson and Mr Davoren, our organist, Mr Evans, the parents of the boys for their huge support and the boys themselves for their commitment and hard work. I would also like to thank the pupils who are leaving for all their contribution over the years. This year’s Upper Sixth, Jaedon Demello, Karol Jozwik, Alessio D’Andrea, Maximillian Barbaroussis, Conor Quinn, and Luke Warren are amongst the most loyal and outstanding group I have known in more than twenty years teaching at the School and they have contributed handsomely to the Schola over the past seven years. I look forward very much to seeing where their very considerable talents will take them.