The past year has been tumultuous at best. Reappearances have been made, the most prominent one being Online House Drama, as well as the beginning preparations for a socially distanced production of War of the Worlds, but nothing quite measured up to the triumphant return of both Whitgift Music and Drama, that came with the Summer Arts Festival.
A combination of exquisitely played pieces, featuring iconic titles such as Summer Nights from Grease by the Brass Ensemble, and the James Bond theme, as well as classical anthems: the likes of Greig would not be disappointed in the Senior String’s rendition of “Praeludium”, nor would Hilary Burgoyne neglect a listen of the String Sinfonia’s performance of “Morning: Up and Doing”. A whole host of students performed during this festival, including the First Form Orchestra; a group comprised entirely of Year 6 & 7 boys, and solos from Marlon Barrios Araya and Uriel Vilchez Meza, boys in the Upper Sixth who came back to the school for a chance to perform once again on the Whitgift stage after such a long hiatus. The night was ended by a truly stirring recital of Boyce’s “Symphony No. 1” by the Chamber Orchestra, which left the audience in awe of the raw talent here at Whitgift.
The Drama department had no small hand in the success of the festival; overcoming the challenges of “Bubbles” and Zoning was essential to provide the wonderful experience audience members were greeted with once the show commenced. Led through the programme by Harry Hutchinson as Master of Ceremonies, guests were presented with a myriad of scenes, each with actors from nearly every school year, tackling themes and ideas that only they could express with such expertise. After the opening scene of “The Life of Galileo”, led by Jack Godwin as Galileo, two monologues were thrust upon the stage, with “The Unknown Bird” performed by Bakari Leon, and an extract from “Amadeus” by Peter Shaffer leading us perfectly into the Chamber Orchestra’s performance of Mozart’s “Allegro Maestoso” from a veteran of the Whitgift stage, Jude Keeper.
Those in attendance were also given the opportunity to return to The Globe, or at least in spirit when boys in the Lower Sixth and Third form presented us with a pair of scenes from Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”, helmed by William Allnutt’s charismatic performance of Malvolio. After a short interval for snacks, drinks and ice cream, commodities not uncommon in the finest of theatre productions, Fraser Murray graced the stage with his moving delivery of Carol Ann Duffy’s “Everyman”. An extract from “Our Country’s Good” allowed us to ponder the importance of theatre and freedom, and the dramatic finale to the return of Whitgift Drama was a rousing and energetic performance of Ron Padgett’s “How to be Perfect” from Luke Ward.
Whitgift’s exultant resurgence to the public eye was, for lack of a better term, magical. The immersion created with the roaming peacocks, the fountains trickling onto the rocks within the Andrew Quadrangle created an atmosphere fitting for a night of the Arts. Of course, far away are the days where patrons can sit in Big School and have the experiences of old, but I think that this Arts Festival has fostered perseverance, hardiness and creativity in both the Music and Drama departments that will no doubt be crucial to any future showcases of Whitgift’s skill and expertise.