Renowned musicians headline Perse Festival of Song

The Perse was alive with the sound of music during a wonderful week-long Festival of Song.

A masterclass with BBC Music Magazine Personality of the Year and top tenor Nicky Spence and acclaimed pianist Joseph Middleton launched the celebration in style.

Piano and vocal duos worked with Nicky and Joseph on pieces they had been practising ahead of a recital held later in the festival week.

Singer Andrew Girgis and pianist Stella Baek (both Upper Sixth) were among the students who were thrilled to have the opportunity to gain inspiration from acclaimed musicians as they rehearsed Haydn’s The Spirit Song.

Andrew, who performs with the Perse Chamber Choir and Senior Voices group, said: “It was great to work with two professional musicians who gave really valuable advice.

“Nicky’s approach was very friendly and jokey and he got the audience involved as well. He got me thinking about the way you use words to portray what a song is talking about and little tricks you can use, as well as just general vocal technique.

“I also play the piano, so it was also useful to hear everything Joseph had to say because that was also relevant for me.”

Stella, who has been playing piano for around 10 years, said: “Joseph was very nice and got me to think more about the atmosphere of the song.

“Not just playing the notes, but also what they mean, and he also made me think more about how the pianist and singer can work together.”

Following their entertaining and engaging workshop, Nicky and Joseph gave a sensational concert in the Peter Hall Performing Arts Centre, performing a wide repertoire from musical arrangements of Robert Burns’ poems to the stylish sounds of Stephen Sondheim.

The festival continued with a lunchtime recital from music department staff, who also provided an ensemble backing for a concert of solo and duet pieces by Upper Sixth students.

More than 20 Year 7 and 8 piano and vocal duos brought the curtain down on the celebrations in fitting fashion with a show featuring performances of everything from Vivaldi and Handel to Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd-Webber.

Perse Director of Music Ben Wingfield said: “Our Festival of Song encouraged the 80 singers and pianists involved to think carefully about interpretation, balance, blend and communication in performance, as well as teamwork in rehearsal.

“To hear the fruits of those labours so fully realised across the week, spanning song in multiple languages and from multiple centuries, was a true testament to the hard work and commitment of our ‘mini-teams’.

“Nicky Spence and Joseph Middleton’s visit to The Perse on the first day of the Festival really helped to set the standard. It’s clear they love working together and this rubbed off on our pupils.

“The evening recital they gave was truly spellbinding and I know that our pupils’ brush with music-making of this calibre will have had a lasting impact upon their development as young musicians.”

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