By Mr Gareth Hemmings, Director of Music

Two of our major music events normally take place during the Spring Term with the Music Department being a creative buzz of activity with every last space crammed with rehearsing instrumental and vocal ensembles, classical and rock groups for the House Music competition and Spring Concert.

To adapt to running remotely this year, House Music captains were given crash courses in music notation software and mixing and recording software that allowed each pupil to record from their own home. As ever the ingenuity behind all the House Music entries was amazing to see as were the new-found skills of video editing. The competition was live-streamed on YouTube with each House entering a 20-25 minute mini-concert consisting of solo performances from middle school, upper school and sixth form, a vocal ensemble and an instrumental ensemble. Judging categories additionally included editing skills and balance and presentation of programme. What was hugely encouraging was that the “feel” of House Music and the real excitement generated by talented young musicians working together was still tangible through the YouTube stream.

For me this has been the real highlight of lockdown music making.

It was clear that our adjudicator was also impressed with the high standards on display. We were very fortunate to virtually welcome Anna Lapwood to judge the competition and the advice and encouragement she gave our musicians was excellent. Anna is a rising star in the classical music world; a choral director (the youngest to be appointed at a Cambridge College), organist and broadcaster on television and radio, Anna was able to offer pertinent comments for all our performers on not only musical points but also presentation.

Many congratulations to Smith and Hawkey on their victory this year.

Spring Unsprung, the title of this year’s Spring Concert, was an event that celebrated what our brass, jazz and rock small ensembles had been able to achieve in the splendid isolation of their own homes since January. We were also able to include an impressive performance of PGS Lower Junior Brass Band performing Beethoven’s Ode to Joy as part of the evening (film below). Once again our young musicians proved they were more than up to the challenge of performing in an ensemble without the immediacy of their ensemble members being in the same room as them and yet still maintain and communicate the integrity of a live ensemble performance. The Year 8 Brass Sextet who opened the evening played a complex arrangement of the traditional melody Portsmouth with a real sense of style and musicianship. Solo vocal performances by Yasmin Jardine and Chi-Yee Lim (who accompanied herself on the piano) demonstrated an idiomatic communication of their songs. There was classy jazz piano from Joshua Chatfield and the wonders of modern technology meant that the Year 8/9 Rock Band, who had recorded Stevie Wonder’s iconic Superstition were able to be joined virtually by Year 8 parent Mr Anarfi whose soulful voice really added to the character of this performance.

This was also one of our last opportunities to hear some of our Year 13 rock musicians. The performances by Golden Lion of Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb and Toto’s Hold the Line featured some remarkable and inspired guitar improvising from Alex Bradshaw and Jurgens Greyling-Oosthuizen along with the rock steady and grounded bass of Max Harvey. We will miss the gentlemen next year! Happily for us the Year 12 members of the band (Dan Smith on drums and James Johnson and Daisy Sissons on vocals and guitar) will still be with us and we look forward to hearing them continue to develop and grow as contemporary musicians.

The concert finished with a performance of the Madness classic, It Must Be Love, recorded in the first lockdown by teachers and staff – a real celebration of the PGS Community spirit. Thank you to all our musicians and especially Mr Walker, Mr Kotch, Mr Brown and Mr Ingamells for continuing to inspire, develop and nurture such fabulous musicians.

If you missed either of these events they can still be streamed from the Music Department website: