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400th Anniversary Gala Concert at WMCMarch 27th, 2014
Gala concert to celebrate 400 years of educational excellence at the Haberdashers’ Monmouth Schools
MORE than 550 young musicians and singers lifted the roof off the Wales Millennium Centre at a gala concert to launch the 400th anniversary celebrations of one of the country’s oldest schools. Founded by merchant Haberdashers William Jones in 1614, the independent boarding and day schools are marking four centuries of educational excellence with a yearlong series of events, beginning with Sunday’s gala concert.
Pupils, families, staff and invited guests took over Wales’s premier performing arts venue for a sell-out concert in the 1,897-seat Donald Gordon Theatre to mark the milestone for Monmouth School and the William Jones’s Schools Foundation.
Highlights of this memorable night included world-renowned conductor and former Haberdashers’ Monmouth School for Girls’ pupil, Professor Jane Glover CBE, taking the baton for a rousing performance of Mendelssohn’s ‘Fingal’s Cave’; while Old Monmothian and ‘voice of the Six Nations’ Eddie Butler stirred the hearts with a rendition of Shakespeare’s most rousing poetry from the legendary son of Monmouth, Henry V, set to music by William Walton.
“This was a magnificent opportunity for the musicians and singers of the Haberdashers’ Monmouth Schools to display their talents in the capital of Wales in a truly world-class venue and an auditorium which inspired all the performers, demonstrating how well young people respond when you set them high standards and give them extraordinary opportunities. It was a wonderful way to celebrate 400 years of existence,” said Monmouth School headmaster Dr Steven Connors.
Mrs Helen Davy, Headmistress of Haberdashers’ Monmouth school for Girls added, “Celebrating such an historic landmark in the schools’ life with a gala concert is something none of the performers will ever forget. It was really moving to see the next generation performing so well in such a splendid auditorium.”
The concert began with the Haberdashers’ Monmouth Symphonic Winds, who played four pieces, beginning with the energetic and heroic ‘A Monmouth Overture’, commissioned by the Friends of Monmouth School in 2007, and featuring ‘The Agincourt Song’, the 15th century melody written to celebrate Henry V’s famous victory over the French.
The Senior Strings then performed Elgar’s ‘Serenade for Strings’ before the Haberdashers’ Monmouth Schools’ Symphony Orchestra struck up William Walton’s score from Laurence Olivier’s Henry V with words from Shakespeare’s play performed by former Wales rugby captain Eddie Butler, who astounded the audience with his memorised rendition of some of the Bard’s most inspiring prose.
As well as attending the sister school, Professor Jane Glover has strong links with Monmouth School, having grown up in the school grounds as daughter of Robert Glover, headmaster from 1959 to 1977. With recent conducting highlights including ‘The Magic Flute’ in New York, and the world premiere of Peter Maxwell Davies’s ‘Kommilitonen!’ at the Royal Academy of Music, she returned to Wales to lead the orchestra in Mendelssohn’s concert overture ‘The Hebrides’, and brought a new dimension to its playing as she obtained a truly lyrical performance from the young musicians.
After a performance of Rachmaninoff’s ‘Vocalise’ conducted by Mario Conway, Director of Music at HMSG, it was left to ‘Superman’ in the form of John Williams’ film theme to give flight to the child within before the interval.
The second half began with the combined voices of the Haberdashers’ Monmouth Schools’ preparatory schools, Inglefield House and The Grange – who had already performed earlier on The Glanfa stage – lifting back the veil of history with ‘Gather ye Rosebuds While Ye May’, before soloist Holly sang a heart- lifting Welsh National Anthem on the weekend of St David’s Day, followed by a rousing performance by the full auditorium.
The concert finale literally pushed the boat out with a concert suite performance of Broadway classic ‘Show Boat’, featuring the combined musicians and voices of Monmouth School, HMSG, the Elms and St John’s on the Hill.
Mr David Lawson, Director of Music at Monmouth School, said: “It was a wonderful evening, and beautifully demonstrated the close co-operation between the Schools in harnessing the talents of the staff and the musical skills of so many musicians in song.”
Pupils, parents, staff and governors will just have time to catch their breath before the next major anniversary event, a trip to St Paul’s Cathedral in London on Wednesday, March 19, the day James I signed the Letters Patent in 1614. A giant fleet of 32 coaches will transport some 1,500 people to a service of thanksgiving for the Schools’ foundation at the historical place of worship of the Haberdashers.