In November 2021, Whitgift made its first solo return to Fairfield Halls since 2015 to celebrate musical excellence at the Autumn Collection Concert.
The venue had been closed for a multi-million-pound refurbishment and Covid then extended the period of closure to early 2021. The Whitgift Music Department were pleased to utilise this venue to showcase a marvellous selection of musical offerings from various ensembles including the Whitgift Chamber Orchestra, Whitgift String Ensemble, Whitgift Brass Ensembles, and a performance from the First Form Choir and Band.
The event did not disappoint. It opened with an uplifting performance by the Whitgift Corps of Drums, founded in 1905, who wowed the almost 1000 guests with their Drum Solos display which was carried out in a darkened theatre under ultraviolet light.
The Brass Ensembles then took the audience from the sensitive Black Sam from Charles Hazell’s ‘Three Brass Cats’ to the 70s Disco classic Boogie Wonderland by Earth Wind and Fire. Then followed the Percussion Ensemble performing two mesmerising pieces, Satie’s Gnossiennes Nos 1 & 3, that created a truly meditative effect as the harmonies passed between the glockenspiel and vibraphone, with the addition of tubular bells, Burmese tuned gongs, and timpani. The Jazz Band then changed the mood with a wonderful performance of a number of jazz classics, including Sing, Sing, Sing, which certainly got toes tapping. The massed String Ensemble, featuring our Senior String Ensemble and members of our junior String Sinfonia, performed the first movement of the Concerto for Four Violins and Cello in B Minor, Op. 3, No. 10 by Vivaldi. The hours of practice certainly showed with four spectacular violin soloists and two cello soloists within the performance.
Following the interval, the Chamber Orchestra played the Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana by Mascagni, and the audience was then treated to two complex pieces performed by the Symphony Orchestra; Marquez’s riveting Danzon No 2, which was originally going to be performed in our planned concert at the Royal Festival Hall, showcased the skills of our excellent students with exposed solos throughout, and driving rhythms, influenced by the composer’s Latin-American heritage. Sibelius' Finlandia was the final contribution from the Symphony Orchestra, which closes with a triumphant statement of the famous hymn tune, with climactic contributions from the percussion section.
The culmination of the evening was a showstopping performance by the First Form Choir, which performed an exciting medley of anthems by Queen. Director of Music, Mr Elsom reminded the audience that many of those singing would never have done so in front of such a large audience, so that alone was something of which all participants should have been proud. An exquisite solo in the Gospel Medley from First Former, Rahul, set the scene beautifully, and this, and the following Queen medley, was supported by the Sixth Form Band who had practiced, largely over weekends, to perfect the accompaniment for both medleys. This made for a particularly memorable finale. It was wonderful to be back!