A brief summary of the past academic year should illustrate the breadth and depth of Hurst’s musical activities and the College’s musical achievements.
Under the direction of Neil Matthews, this is the College’s most high profile and its busiest ensemble. The Choir numbered over 100 last year and provided music for the weekly College Eucharists as well as Evensongs and services outside the College, notably for the Cricket Society at St Mary’s Church in Horsham. The choir rehearses for nearly two hours per week and its members are committed and focussed, increasingly striving for higher standards. Special moments of the year included the Advent Procession and the Carol Service (not to mention the Boar’s Head Feast).
The Chamber Choir
Taken from the main choir, this is a group of 18 singers whose repertoire is much wider and more challenging. The choir has most recently sung Evensong at Salisbury and Rochester Cathedrals and will continue to visit a cathedral every term as well as contributing to major College services and giving concerts. This academic year, the Chamber Choir ventured into new territory to give a performance of Bob Chilcott’s “Jazz Mass” (complete with jazz trio: piano, drums and double bass) as part of the weekly Eucharist service and as part of the Choral Society concert. This was followed by a residential trip to Walsingham where the choir led the congregational singing at the National Pilgrimage. More details of these events can be found in the relevant articles.
The College Orchestra
The Orchestra, under the direction of Neil Matthews had a terrific year last year and saw a number of significant additions to its ranks in all instrumental areas. Summer Term, last year was a typically tricky one for instrumental ensembles with study programmes, exams, trips and so forth upon us, but the orchestra managed extremely well, preparing a performance of an arrangement of James Bond themes. At the start of the new academic year, the College Orchestra was kept busy rehearsing Leighton’s Suite No. 2. The four contrasting movements, each in a different style, presented the orchestra with new challenges and was performed with considerable accomplishment in the recent Winter Concert.
The Jazz Band
Under the inspired leadership of Andrew Sutton, the Jazz Band is one of the College’s premier ensembles, providing a unique and very special contribution to major school concerts in - and beyond - the school. As always, the band is cheered to the rafters when the opening bars of their more popular numbers are heard and this year saw “Saxes With Attitude” established as their most requested piece. In the always popular Winter Concert, the band added a festive encore of Frosty the Snowman to their programme and in the Lent term developed a new and complex number – Orilla del Mar, a lengthy piece which fluctuates between Latin, swing and rock. The Lent Concert was the focus of the work for the term and laid some solid foundations for the rigorous performance schedule of the Summer Term. Jazz and warm weather always seem to go together and the Jazz Band is no stranger to playing outside, in tents, in the Inner Quad, under gazebos etc.
The College Musical
Hurst's annual musical involves more students than any other individual creative project in the school. Bernstein’s “West Side Story” will be a tough act to follow involving demanding solo vocal roles, tricky dance routines, multi layered chorus numbers and complex characterisations. The sheer musical accomplishment of this production has raised the audiences’ expectations. They were, however, not disappointed. “Evita” was an enormous hit with audience and cast alike. Accompanied by a professional band (which was supplement by some of our home grown musicians) the cast got to grips with some tricky ensemble numbers and mesmerised the audience with amazing choreography and singing.
The Baroque Ensemble
The latest venture for Hurst’s Music Department is Baroque Ensemble. Responding to the demands of our increasingly talented scholars, this group was founded to provide our most talented instrumentalists with ensemble opportunities. Their repertoire to date has included contrasting movements from some of Bach’s “Brandenburg” concerti as well as smaller scale works by Telemann and Vivaldi. They have had an equally busy time, playing in each of the end of term concerts as well as welcoming prospective students at each of the College’s open mornings. They are also in demand outside of College, recently performing in a shared concert at St. Wilfrid’s, Haywards Heath.
The Saxophone Ensemble
As well as the Jazz Band, Andrew Sutton is also instrumental in the running the Saxophone Ensemble. This group moves from strength to strength attacking new and demanding repertoire with zeal. Few will forget the Saxophone Ensemble’s performance of Karen Street’s “Carnival” at the Winter Concert in which the players walk off the stage whilst playing creating a gradual fade out and until the stage was left bare and silent.
Other Instrumental Ensembles
Under the direction of Jon Cherry the Flute Ensemble has continued to gain in both technical ability and tone quality. It recently had its own concert featuring some remarkable soloists and ensemble playing. The Brass Group under Darren Jameson provides a wonderful vehicle for our brass players to play outside of their instrumental lessons and the College Orchestra. The Hurst Rockers under the direction of the veteran Derek Austin continues to impress and produced a substantial set for the Jazz and Rock concert in November. Footage from this concert is available on the School Website.
The Solo Music Competition
This competition takes place over 5 nights mid Lent term, each dedicated to a specific instrument or instrumental family. The competition is growing in popularity and more pupils than ever before took part last year. Each evening was expertly adjudicated by some fine musicians including the international tenor Neil Jenkins, and other eminent instrumentalist and soloists: Andrew Quatermain, Gavin Morrison, and Katharine Adams. The standard of playing across the board was deeply impressive with the Winners’ Concert being a great showcase of the best talent that Hurst has to offer.
The Concert and Recital Series
This continues apace with regular concerts giving all musicians at Hurst an opportunity to perform, no matter what their instrument or their standard. From the Shell and Remove Recital to the Jazz and Rock Concert, standards have consistently been getting higher and higher. The Scholars' Concert is always an enjoyable event, giving parents, staff and friends an opportunity to hear the cream of Hurst's musical talent. This year's concert was among the best for a number of years and included an extraordinarily wide variety of music from across the ages. Hurst musicians frequently give concerts outside the College and in the wider community and last year these included the Burgess Hill Rotary Club, the Adastra Hall, Keymer and concerts at local Prep Schools. This year, students have been encouraged to enter the Mid-Sussex Competitive Music Festival. In our first year, students walked away with an impressive number of first prizes and trophies. Details about their successes and many of the concerts mentioned above, together with articles written by the students, can be found elsewhere on the School’s website.
Hurst Unplugged 2013
Senior School musicians created a powerful stage presence when they entertained their audience in the Music School. To read more, please click here
House Shout 2013
Girls in Shield House raised the roof of the College Chapel when they won first place in this year’s House Shout singing competition. To read more, please click here
Fifth form scholars' concert
Fifth form Music scholars performed to an audience last night as part of their GCSE coursework. To read more, please click here
Cake at the College
120 visitors arrived at Hurst full of anticipation for the annual Cake at the College music event. For more, please click here
Musicians get into the swing of Hurst Festival
A group of Hurst’s dedicated musicians performed a varied jazz repertoire at Lamb House in Hurstpierpoint Village, as part of the Hurst Festival programme. For more, please click here