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NEWS: Whitgift Guitar Festival 2018An Evening to Remember


Date published: Tue 8 May 2018   Author: R. Whitfield   Category: Performing Arts


Whitgift’s 2018 Guitar Festival took place in April, including an array of student-teacher duos, guitar and vocal collaborations and the Debbie Thomas Guitar Competition. It was a wonderful event, hosted in the School’s splendid Concert Hall.

Opening the concert, Mr Shane Hill accompanied his pupils with great sensitivity and skill, ensuring the fledgling players were never overshadowed, thus encouraging assured and stylish performances from all. Parents were treated to a trip down memory lane, with classic hits by Bob Dylan and Stevie Wonder included in the varied programme.

Mr Simon James’ pupils, William Hughes (Year 10) and Juan Garcia Gutierrez (Year 7), then took to the stage to present their impressive solos, which included the traditional Japanese melody, Sakura, and Tony Skinner’s Get Sussed.

With audience members already wowed by some outstanding solo items, there was much to live up to, and the next act certainly did not disappoint. Taking the world by storm with their first ever public performance, a new and exciting Whitgift boy band was born. Led by Year 9 students, Peter Aznar and Jack Godwin on vocals, accompanied by superstar guitarists Yash Vora and Jay Rowe (also Year 9), the group performed outstanding arrangements of Everybody Hurts (REM), Eternal Flame (The Bangles) and Time After Time (Cindi Lauper).

The second première performance of the night came from our newest choir, Junior Voices. Accompanied with panache by the Whitgift Guitar Ensemble, and directed by Mr Daniel Smith, this was the perfect finale to a first half brimming with talent. Singing in perfect unison and with heaps of style, this budding choir presented a superb rendition of the Beatles classic, Hey Jude.

After the interval four pupils took part in the solo guitar competition, each performing two contrasting pieces. The standard of performances this year was extremely good, setting the bar high for budding guitarists to strive towards in future years.

First to take to the stage was Karl Sachs (Year 12), who captured the essence of Spain in full with his performance of two sensational pieces by Gaspar Sanz. Year 13 student, Rohan Bahl’s performance of Ponce’s Prelude No.6, possessed assured musical direction and included some beautiful melodic shaping. Stunning the audience with his rip-roaring rock renditions, Matthew Willson (Year 11) showed off numerous guitar techniques and mastered a highly technical programme.

It was Year 9 pupil, Kai Lam, who stole the show, however, with his impressive performance of Bach’s Bourrée in E minor, showing confidence and stylistic meticulousness, followed by a completely convincing interpretation of Pavlovits’ Bagatelle from Prelude No.5. Kai’s choice of repertoire paired with a developed sense of musicality and technical dexterity beyond his years, led the panel of judges to their unanimous decision in awarding him the coveted First Prize. A big congratulations to Kai and well done to all the talented musicians who performed on the night.

With little opportunity to perform as solo guitarists, and often mistakenly regarded as mere ‘accompanists’ for singers, this valuable musical platform is the perfect arena to display the incredible talents of the ever-growing guitar department at Whitgift. Thank you to all the Whitgift boys and staff who took part, with a special thank you to Mr Thomas Motley, whose positive appraisal as Chair of the adjudicating panel was absolutely perfect for the occasion.

  • Whitgift Guitar Festival 2018