Music 1961

1961 School Magazine Report

Once again the music department of the school has been kept very busy, and has achieved success in many spheres. During all the activities it has become increasingly noticeable that a definite esprit de corps has found its way into life of the department. The boys have become so used to to innumerable rehearsals in any one week that I think they would feel cheated if they were only asked to rehearse twice! I feel too that they have a fierce pride in their work; it was certainly visible at the Wharfedale Festival anyway. To a non-vocalist the choir boy is no longer a cissy; to the choir boy the non-vocalist just isn’t with it.

At the end of the summer term last year the choir took part in two festive occasions of a very different order; the choir trip and the end-of-term service. The former was as big a success as ever, even though the weather was most unkind to us. The rains came at the end of an interesting trip around the sights of York, and spoilt our stay at Robin Hood’s Bay. There the boys took one look at the sea and beat a hasty retreat to the nearest cafe, except a few hardy ones who huddled around Mr Fisher - not out of love for him, of course, but for his outsize umbrella. At Whitby the weather was no better and the eagerly anticipated train journey between the bay and Whitby ended in a sing-song because the only thing visible through the windows was condensation.

The end-of-term service, held as usual at St Columba’s Church, saw the choir in serious mood two days later. They gave a distinguished performance of two difficult works; Stanford’s great Magnificat in C and his six-part motet Beati Quorum Via. The manner in which the boys maintained an excellent balance between the parts was quite outstanding, and the almost blase way in which they gave a spirited and accurate performance of the Magnificat after only three days’ rehearsals was the kind of achievement one usually expects only from experienced cathedral choirs.

Before I continue with the ever growing list of choir successes, I feel I ought to mention a word about the department’s Cinderella, the orchestra. This admirable school institution is not dead. But at the moment it is seriously ill. Last year we lost two or three key players, which rendered the remaining combination virtually useless and as yet we have no-one to replace them. Individual instrumental are flourishing, however, so we have every hope that the orchestra will be making its own special sound at speech days again very soon. It is strange how the orchestra was missed at Speech Day this year; in some cases by the very people who stick fingers in their ears on other occasions!. In the meantime we have the beginnings of a fine brass band again. Many boys are learning under that doyen of brass band conductors, Mr Atkinson, and we only wish we had more instruments to cope with the demand for tuition which is steadily mounting.

In November last, the choir was invited, at very short notice, to give a lunch-hour concert at St George’s Hall, following our success at a similar function twelve months before. The programme included Parry’s long setting of “Blest Pair of Sirens” and other part songs for S.A.T.B. The most interesting item, however, was the first performance in Yorkshire of Benjamin Britten’s recently composed Missa Brevis. This three-part setting of the Mass comes to destroy the widely-held impression that church music is necessarily dull. It is rhythmic, exciting and tuneful, and one hopes that Britten will write many more church compositions in this style, including some for the Anglican rite. The concert was well received by a large audience.

The Christmas Carol Service was the usual happy event. There is always a fine atmosphere at this service; exams are over and Christmas is just around the corner. In planning such a service attention must be directed to the creation of the right atmosphere both in the choice of carols and organ music, and indeed in the very movements of the choir. This year the service was a lively affair with the school taking a bigger part in the service.

In giving entertainment at masonic lodges over Christmas, the choir were themselves royally entertained and entered in a very real way into the Christmas spirit!

At Speech Day, held in March this year, we were most gratified to hear the complimentary remarks of our chief speaker, the Rt Rev the Lord Bishop of Bradford (now Archbishop of York, and later of Canterbury). Dr Coggan’s favourite item was a three-part setting of “Hark! Hark! The Lark!” sung a la Vienna Boys’ Choir with continental voice production, but the audience seemed to prefer “The Echo Song” by Lassus, for which a few  members left the main choir on the platform and went up to the West Gallery to provide the echoes.In May we had another House Musical Festival. There were more entries than ever this year and the festival was still going strong at 10.30 pm! Our excellent adjudicator was Mr Frank Mumby of Leeds University, himself an old boy of the school. Chief interest was naturally centred on the house choirs, the raw material for which was by no means equal in quality, and it says a lot for the enthusiasm and drive of Harry Atkinson that his North house choir came first quite easily though it was not potentially the best group.

The main event of the year for the choir is, however, the annual battle royal at the Wharfedale Festival. It was asking a lot for the choir to repeat their double win of the previous year, yet this is what they achieved. So the Duncan Shield and the Ilkley U.D.C. Trophy are back at Grange for another year.

The school year ends with another three events; the choir trip, the Central School Leavers’ Service, this year at Eastbrook Hall, and our own end-of-term service. We hope that in the new school year ahead we shall have many more interesting events and successes.

In conclusion the department would like to pay a small tribute to some of the senior boys who devote much extra time to help in the day-to-day happenings concerning school music, especially playing the piano at morning assembly. Such boys as Campbell, Emsley, Holmes and Darke are a godsend to hard-worked music masters!

The choir, incidentally, made a long-playing record this year, which will serve as a very pleasant reminder of happy days for boys, when in later life they tell their friends in a rich basso profundo: “I sang top treble in this.


The Order of Service for the Bradford Leavers' Service 1961 (provided by Harry Atkinson):


The following programmes were kindly donated by Harry Atkinson: