Bands, Choirs and Orchestras

Monmouth School Chapel Choir

A choir of some sort (what were often known as ‘Singing Children’) must have been maintained by the School since its inception in the early seventeenth century.  Since at least the middle of the nineteenth century it has been known as the Chapel Choir and has provided the music for choral services in the chapel and some in the Parish Church, and continues to do so, as well as singing outside Monmouth.

In recent years the choir has performed in St. Paul’s Cathedral (twice), Westminster Cathedral (twice), Bristol, Chichester, Lichfield, St. Davids and Llandaff Cathedrals and St. George’s Windsor (twice).  There is a trebles’ rehearsal, and lower-voices rehearsal and a full rehearsal each week and the repertoire extends from renaissance polyphony to twentieth-century works.  New works are commissioned for the choir from time-to-time, the latest by Alan Bullard, published by OUP.  The choir is directed by the Director of Music, David Lawson, a former cathedral organ scholar and Gentleman of her Majesty’s Chapels Royal.  Many boys will come into the Chapel Choir from the Grange Choir, spending their entire career at Monmouth School singing and leaving with a decade of singing experience.

carcassonne-from-the-old-bridgeIn Summer 2015 the choir, with a string orchestra, made a concert tour of the French Riviera, performing at the Avignon Festival, the Aix-en-Provence Festival, Carcassonne and Toulouse.  In 2013 the choir toured Spain and Morocco, performing in the Mezquite of Cordoba, St. Andrew’s Tangier, San Bartolomé Asila and Nuestra Señora de las Angustias in Granada.  In Summer 2017 the choir will make a concert tour, again with a string orchestra, to Rome and Perugia.

Junior Winds

Junior WindsJunior Winds is the band in which most boys play if they learn a brass, woodwind or percussion instrument and have not yet been invited into Symphonic Winds.  Aside from being an opportunity for boys to make music together under the leadership of Miss Fowler, the band fulfils a number of purposes.  At one level it is another occasion in the week when the player has contact with his instrument.  For many it is a chance to play some good, enjoyable music, and reinforce what is happening in individual lessons by applying it in an ensemble environment.  There are many enjoyable social aspects too, and most boys enjoy the concert performances and tours which membership brings with it.

Chamber Music

Chamber Music takes place weekly in the Music School, in a number of different forms.  The aim of the Chamber Music programme is to provide an opportunity for the more advanced players, in all age-ranges, to play together and to receive, from an instrumental specialist, expert tuition in their field.

Currently, there are chamber music groups operating for wind players (the three Blake Ensembles and Saxophony run by Mrs. Dollins), string players (the String Quartet and Trio operated by Mrs. Greenwood and Mrs. Milledge), percussion players (Percussion Ensemble run by Mr. Hathaway) and brass players (Brass Ten-Piece, run by Major Burton).

Bach Orchestra

The Bach Orchestra Performing at WMC
The Bach Orchestra Performing at the Wales Millennium Centre

The Bach Orchestra is our training orchestra for the junior string players. Under the direction of Mr. Hunt the orchestra provides the boys with an opportunity to learn to play in an ensemble situation and to explore some exciting repertoire. Music from contemporary film scores, Baroque concerti grossi and standard string orchestra favourites have all featured in recent programmes.  The Orchestra works towards a public performance at least once a term and has represented the School in concerts in other venues including the Wales Millennium Centre and in concert tours abroad. With experience and increased technical proficiency the boys are eventually invited to the Joint Senior String Orchestra.

Senior Strings

Senior Strings at the WMC
Senior Strings at the WMC

The School is very fortunate to be able to support two dedicated string orchestras. Having progressed up through the ranks of the Bach Orchestra boys may be invited to join the Joint Senior String Orchestra run in conjunction with our sister School HMSG. The cream of our senior string players, from grade five and above, meet weekly to rehearse advanced repertoire under the direction of specialist string coaches.  In addition to the traditional string repertoire members of the orchestra occasionally have the opportunity to perform as soloists in concerto performances; a recent example being ‘Autumn’ from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.  The orchestra gives regular public performances and also takes part in exciting foreign tours.

Senior Strings at the WMC 2

white-large-chiclet More photos from the WMC Gala concert is available on our FlickR account

Haberdashers' Monmouth Schools' Symphony Orchestra

hmsso-with-jane-gloverHMSSO 2016-17

This year, control of the Orchestra passes to Monmouth School, under the baton of Mr. Lawson.  The repertoire is ambitious; two movements from Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite (1919), Kachaturian’s famous Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia and Elmer Bernstein’s wonderful Magnificent Seven.

The first workshop, with a full staff of instrumental tutors, takes place at Monmouth School on Sunday 20th November beginning at 11 am, with two further workshops to take place in January and March.  The works are to be performed as part of HMSG’s 125th Birthday Celebrations at St. David’s Hall on Sunday 26th March 2017.

A bit about the HMSSO

This is a joint project which provides the musically talented and gifted pupils of both schools the opportunity to study and perform challenging orchestral repertoire. The pupils meet for three intensive workshops; one in the Michaelmas term and two in the Lent term, culminating in a public performance late in March. The workshops are staffed by instrumental specialists and teachers from both schools as well as professional performers who are currently appearing with national orchestras and ensembles.

Orchestral works that have been performed include: Dance Overture by William Mathias; Extracts from Petrushka by Igor Stravinsky; Olympic Overture by John Williams; An American in Paris by George Gershwin; the Karelia Suite by Jean Sibelius; Gayaneh Suite by Khachaturian; Superman March by John Williams; Fingal’s Cave by Mendelssohn; Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana by Mascagni; and Vocalise by Rachmaninoff.

HMSSO at St. David’s Hall 2017’:

Haberdashers' Monmouth Schools Symphonic Winds

Symphonic Winds, conducted by Sarah Fowler, is made up jointly of boys from Monmouth School and girls from HMSG.  The band tackles a wide repertoire, ranging from twentieth-century band music by Holst to transcriptions of big band and rock favourites by Glenn Miller and Queen, to film favourites by John Williams and Ennio Morricone.

The band rehearses on Mondays after lessons at Monmouth School and is fed by junior bands at both Monmouth School and HMSG.  In the last few years they have undertaken a number of off-site concerts, competitions and tours, including performances at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music in Glasgow, the Royal Academy of Music in London, concerts locally in Coleford and Monmouth, and tours to Paris, Barcelona, Prague and Italy.  In 2014 the band opened the School’s 400th Anniversary Concert at the Wales Millennium Centre with Philip Sparkes’ A Monmouth Overture, written especially for them in 2007.

Symphonic Winds April 2015 - 4

Monmouth School Jazz Orchestra

Monmouth School Jazz Orchestra April 2015Monmouth School Jazz Orchestra – April 2015

Mojo rehearses weekly after school on Thursdays and regularly perform at events and concerts throughout the school year. The band provides for pupils to learn the skills required for jazz improvisation and big band music.  Mojo’s repertoire includes standards from Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Glen Miller among others, as well as modern compositions and arrangements.  Future plans include performances in the Wyastone Concert Hall and Wales Millennium Centre.

Jazz Band 2

Choral Society

Monmouth School Choral Society is a non-auditioned choir with singers from all age-groups in the School.  It’s main purpose is to prepare a concert-work for performance in the Lent Term; in recent years the choir has performed Mozart’s Requiem, Rutter’s Gloria, Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms, Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, Orff’s Carmina Burana and Mozart’s Great C Minor Mass.  For some of these performances the Choral Society has teamed up with choirs from HMSG.  The Choral Society also sings for one of the Carol Services each year, giving us a break from preparing the big concert work.  The Choral Society rehearses after lessons on Tuesdays in the Michaelmas and Lent Terms, and parents are welcome to join their sons in the choir if they wish.

Choral Society - WMC 2015 Show BoatPerforming at Wales Millennium Centre during the schools’ 400th anniversary celebrations in 2014Choral Society - Wyastone Concert 2015

Wyastone Concert March 2015