Friday, December 16, 2011


200 Alleynians lustily singing the Gershwin indestructible tunes of Porgy and Bess was thrilling, heart-warming and mind-blowing. No doubt that Gershwin is up there with the great composers. It is a miracle how a Jewish New York boy could conjure up the spirit of the negro world; and make something universal with his music.

We must be grateful to Ed Lojeski for his arrangement even if the opening and the bits between the six numbers are crumbly. The deployment of the voices on the platform and the multitudes in the galleries worked extremely well. Dr. Carnelly stirred the mixture most effectively.

I generally find that adolescents cope better with romantic and twentieth century scores than those of the eighteenth century because Mozart and Haydn need style which grown-ups handle better – adolescents take to Mahler and Shostakovich more easily… or Gershwin. But I found I was wrong because Lesley Larkum got the boys to play idiomatically correctly in the performance of the Mozart Divertimento (there were even some pianissimi in K.138) and the first movement of the Piano Concerto in A, K. 414, which was most elegantly played by Lewis Lloyd. He made beautiful sounds and music… and later proved his versatility by joining the bassoons in the second half. He's a cool and talented Head Boy is Lewis.

Richard Mayo launched the evening with Elgar's once popular, now rarely played, Imperial March, a piece that shows some familiar composing footprints even if Elgar had not quite got into his stride by 1897. Michael Deniran produced good tone in Beethoven's Romance even if his intonation was somewhat shaky – nerves, I would guess.

So, we have to say goodbye to Barbara Lake which is sad, but she marked her departure in fine style. The Wind Band responded enthusiastically in two New York numbers: Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue (which is evergreen) and Nigel Hess's Brit view of the American capital, the playing was suitably tangy and a bit brash. Sebastian Chong took a little time to warm up at the piano, the opening lacked continuity (not helped by some rough riffs from the clarinet) but thereafter he gave full measure to Gershwin's masterpieces of an evocation of the twenties. Wonderful tunes even though, as usual in his symphonic works, he found difficulty in wrapping up his sublime melodies and inventive passage work.

Dear present-day Alleynians, I wonder if you realise how fortunate you are at Dulwich with such a lot of music going on under the supervision of Richard Mayo. I was at the college wayback, from 1935 to 1939. True, there was an orchestra of sorts and a choir but music was low in the priorities: there was only half a director of music because Mr. Gayford was also in charge of History. Whereas now you have two orchestras, choirs large and small, a jazz band, instrument facilities and really capable teachers.

Out in the wide world there is recession and financial mayhem but down in SE21 you have an enviable enclave of music making. Boys, you may not continue your musical activities later in life but the discipline of singing and playing instruments, the joy of music, will undoubtedly improve your lives and will to a greater or lesser degree, affect you when you leave Dulwich.

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