Chetham’s A level results are consistently outstanding and this year, our students have enjoyed over three quarters of their results at A*-B with half of their results at A*/A.
But statistics tell only a fraction of the story and the quality of our students’ lives going forward will depend far more on their personal qualities and characters. Most importantly, there are numerous personal achievements and success stories to celebrate which reflect the outstanding academic, musical and personal progress our students make during their time at Chetham’s.
Five students scored at least 3 A* grades, and four have secured places at Oxford or Cambridge. A further 13 students have secured places at top UK universities including London (University College, King’s College, Royal Holloway, Imperial College), Liverpool, St Andrews, Edinburgh and York to read subjects as diverse as Music, History, Biochemistry, Physics, Medicine, Computer Science, French and Social Policy, Mathematics, and French and Philosophy.
Special mention should go to clarinettist Oliver Burrow, our young soloist for Aaron Copland’s Clarinet Concerto at The Bridgewater Hall last year. Oliver achieved 4 straight A* and will read Biochemistry at Imperial College London. Hot on his tail, pianist Bolin Dai gained 3 A* and an A and will study medicine at Cambridge. Similarly, pianist Solomon-Miles Donnelly achieved 3 A* and an A and will study medicine at Liverpool. Having achieved 4 A* our Head Girl, Josephine Cowley, leaves us to read Physics at Imperial College London and George Herbert, who also gained 3 straight A*, will assume his rightful place as Organ Scholar at St John’s College Cambridge, ten years after he joined Chetham’s as a chorister.
Once again, the majority of students leave us to study at the very best conservatoires in the UK and abroad, many with multiple scholarship offers. Particular mention to trumpeter Holly Clark, who gained three A grades at A level and enjoyed scholarship offers from all her conservatoires – she finally chose to study at the Royal Academy of Music in London!
Back in March the Woodwind and Brass & Percussion departments held their annual Chamber Music performance day. With over thirty ensembles meeting every week to rehearse, including Duos, Trios, Quartets, Quintets and instrumental choirs this promised to be a real chamber music spectacular – and it didn’t disappoint, with over five hours of music making!
This year for the first time our chamber music event was also supported by a number of visiting guest artists. Clarinettist Yann Ghiro (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland), Euphonium player Dr David Thornton (Royal Northern College of Music), and Trombonist Phil Goodwin (Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama) worked with many of the ensembles between concerts. It was a great opportunity for our students to further develop their skills in ensemble playing, alongside some of the country’s finest chamber musicians.
Congratulations to all 96 performers and a huge thank you to the tutors for their tireless commitment to chamber music throughout the year. A big thanks too to all the mums, who celebrated Mothers’ Day in musical style this year!
The Chamber Music celebration will return in spring 2020, when students across the School once again come together as small ensembles to create a packed day of performance.
Adolphe Sax (1814-1894) was one of the most important figures in the evolution of the woodwind genre. His patent of the saxophone in 1846 represents one of the most important musical landmarks of the nineteenth century. Marking the quasquicentennial anniversary of Sax’s death, Chetham’s woodwind department was delighted to collaborate with Selmer Paris, in a celebration of the saxophone through a day of workshops, performances and masterclasses.
On Sunday 24 March, Chetham’s saxophone tutors Andrew Wilson, Carl Raven, Jim Muirhead and Dan White led our saxophone celebration. Chetham’s fifteen saxophone students were joined by saxophonists of all ages from far and wide, in workshops and seminars ranging from improvisation and practice strategies, to ensemble skills and performance classes. We were thrilled to welcome back to Chetham’s our alumna and celebrity saxophonist Naomi Sullivan, who was joined by her students from Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.
Highlights included a lunchtime concert given jointly by Chetham’s and the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s Saxophone Choirs. The saxophone choirs gave a mind-blowing joint performance of Ivor McGregor’s exciting new work Firm Noir. After lunch, Eric Claeys from Selmer Paris gave a saxophone presentation which was followed by a masterclass led by Selmer Paris Artist Naomi Sullivan. The event culminated in a massed performance of Holst’s Jupiter given by all participants and tutors, and arranged by Andrew Wilson.
“Chetham’s Saxophone day was a happy crossing of lots of paths: the generous and inspiring staff of Chetham’s Woodwind Department who provide young musicians with exceptional support and a thorough grounding. It was a wonderful collaboration between students from Chetham’s and the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.I really enjoyed working with many of the youngest generation of saxophonists who brought ideas, energy and fun to the day. Thank you for the opportunity to remember a truly brilliant inventor whose life was overshadowed by adversity but whose legacy clearly shines very brightly!” Naomi Sullivan- International Saxophonist and Selmer Paris Artist.
May 2019 saw the release of a brand new double CD recording, An English Coronation, recorded at Ely Cathedral last summer. The CD features music used in a series of Royal coronations, from the crowning of King Edward VII in 1902 to Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. The project was led by Paul McCreesh, a long standing friend of Chetham’s, with members of the Gabrieli Consort. Gabrieli Players and children from eleven schools and youth choirs across the country, brought together though the Gabrieli Roar choral training programme. Alongside professional soloists, and actor Simon Russell Beale representing the Archbishop of Canterbury, were a group of Chetham’s students and alumni forming a Symphonic Brass and Percussion Ensemble, led by Head of Brass and Percussion David Chatterton.
Chetham’s part of the project began in early 2018, when David and three Chetham’s students travelled to Bradford, to begin exploring the music used in five coronations. The group who travelled to Ely in August 2018 combined ten former students and staff members with six current brass players and two percussionists, who together performed the seven fanfares integral to many of the coronations’ most memorable moments. Alumna Hannah Aurora, now playing with the Royal Regiment of Scotland, worked closely with David to source historical instruments suited to the recording, which were loaned by Portsmouth Royal Marines. These formed just a small number of the instruments used in the recording, which featured period brass instruments manufactured between the 1890s and 1940s.
Following two days of rehearsal, almost 1000 performers gave a concert in Ely Cathedral before two further days of recording. For Chetham’s players, it was a superb opportunity to work on a professional level, unite current and former students, and to support the educational ideals of Gabrieli Roar. As Gabrieli flautist Katy Bircher describes it in the CD’s notes, “The quality of the sound and their focus and commitment was unforgettable and gives me hope not just for the future of music, but for the future in general with this generation at the helm.”
Reviews of the recording have been superb, with 5 stars from The Times and Robert Hugill. Comments included, “What makes this album particularly exciting is, firstly, the sense of history and tradition that is so vividly conveyed and, secondly, the fact that so many young musicians—clearly very talented—have been involved” (Presto Classical) and “During the service there are copious opportunities for fanfares. These are played – marvellously – by the Chetham’s Symphonic Brass Ensemble” (Music Web International).
Chetham’s is delighted to announce a new era for its Vocal and Choral programme!
Young singers will now be able to join the School from Year 9, where previously they were asked to wait until Sixth Form; whilst both first study singers, and the School’s many choirs, will be part of a new department led by baritone Marcus Farnsworth.
Marcus himself attended Chetham’s after beginning his musical journey as a chorister at Southwell Minster in Nottinghamshire. Subsequent studies took him to the University of Manchester and the Royal Academy of Music, and his award-winning professional career has included recitals, recordings and operatic performances across the world. He was awarded first prize in the 2009 Wigmore Hall International Song Competition and the Song Prize at the 2011 Kathleen Ferrier competition. He marries his performance career with an ongoing commitment to educational and community singing; he is Director of the Southwell Festival Voices, President of St George’s Singers in Manchester, and Founder and Artistic Director of both the Southwell Music Festival and Manchester Vocal Festival, held at Chetham’s for the first time in 2018.
Marcus will be part of Chetham’s outstanding music department led by Tom Redmond, who also joins the School in September as Director of Music. Principal Alun Jones said, “I am delighted that Marcus is joining us at such an exciting time in the School’s development. As we celebrate Chetham’s 50th Anniversary as a specialist music school, we look forward to the future and to influencing the musical landscape of the nation for many more years as an international centre of instrumental, vocal and choral excellence.”
Marcus’ role will encompass both leadership of the School’s excellent choirs, and development of the programme for first study singers, alongside a superb team of vocal teachers. Every student at Chetham’s sings regularly as part of an ensemble, whilst the flagship Chamber Choir and Chorus has performed alongside artists including Paul McCreesh, John Rutter and the Hallé. Previously, students were only admitted as singers into the Sixth Form; the expanded department will welcome young performers from Year 9 upwards, providing a natural development route for maturing choristers and allowing more time for young singers to build their skills in the unique musical environment of a specialist education.
Like all instrumental students at Chetham’s, singers from Year 9 will be eligible for funding up to full fees for all music and academic teaching through the Department for Education’s Music and Dance scheme. Interested students can find out more at Chetham’s Open Evenings for the Middle School and Sixth Form, which take place in June.
Finding the right music teacher for your child can be a difficult decision, whether you’re hoping to get started on your first ever instrument or to take your playing to the next level. However, there are many networks and support services to help you feel confident in your decision, and a few things to bear in mind as you establish what can be a lasting and valuable relationship.
What are you looking for in your music teacher?
Start by thinking about your priorities in choosing a music teacher. Make sure your child is part of the process; think about their learning styles, and how they engage with school or other lessons. If they’re academic, and already eager to make progress, they might be ready to start working quickly towards graded exams. If they have little prior experience of music, they’re unsure which instrument is for them, or they’re fitting music alongside numerous other activities, you may need a teacher who can help them to enjoy and appreciate music as a whole, leaving grades until a little further down the line. Graded music exams can provide great motivation for learners at any age, but for younger children, in particular, it’s important that your teacher provides a strong theoretical base whilst leaving space for fun, discovery and enjoyment.
If you’re not sure what’s best for your child, listen! Spend time exploring music with your child, and finding out what they respond to. There’s no limit to how early you can start to listen, enjoy, and help your child discover their individual interests. Look at the programmes at local music venues, community centres and theatres, many of which run music and activity sessions for babies or toddlers, as well as family concerts or teenage inspiration days for older children. Stop and listen to street performers, family members or friends; talk to your child about the music they hear in film or on television, what it adds to the story and which parts they like best. If they particularly enjoy jazz, pop, classical or other genres, make sure you look for a music teacher who can incorporate that into their lessons.
How to find a music teacher near you
Many music shops run ‘try an instrument’ days for children and adults to see which instrument inspires them. Most schools and Music Education Hubs will also have a small stock of instruments to lend or hire, allowing you to try out options before you commit.
Once you know what you’re looking for, there are plenty of networks to help you find a local music teacher. Talk to your school or local music service, or look online at reputable sites including: EPTA (European Piano Teachers’ Association) Music Mark ISM (Incorporated Society of Musicians) MU (Musicians’ Union) ESTA (European String Teachers’ Association)
When you make contact, ask teachers about their qualifications and experience, both as performers and teachers. They should be happy to show you a current, valid DBS check, particularly if you plan to leave your child alone with them during lessons.
Most teachers will let you book one or two trial lessons before committing to a regular slot. You should expect to pay for these, but there’s no harm in meeting more than one teacher at the beginning; your child is embarking on what can become a creative and personal relationship, and you need to find the right ‘fit’ for all involved – for you, for the teacher, and most importantly for your child. You should expect the teacher to spend time ensuring your child is playing in a healthy position, developing good physical habits for future practice; talking to them about their interests; and giving them chance to explore their new instrument.
How parents can support children’s music lessons
Once lessons begin, agree with your teacher whether you should remain in the room or not. For many children it’s easier to learn and focus without a parent watching, but you’ll play an important part in their learning even if you’re not there every minute. You should be welcome to ask questions to understand your child’s progress, practice points and learning techniques, or to visit lessons from time to time. Some teachers or organisations might provide parents’ evenings or ask you to pre-arrange meetings and visits, whilst others may invite you into lessons spontaneously; it all depends whether you’re working with a private teacher or organisation, whether you’re in the same building regularly, and how your child’s lesson fits with other timetabling or commitments. Of course, no two organisations or teachers are the same. You should respect their policies and the needs of other children and families learning in each centre.
Most important of all is that you understand how you can support your child’s practice. Generally, teachers will suggest that young learners practice regularly, but not for too long at a time – focus on quality, not quantity. It often helps to find a regular slot in the day, and a quiet, focussed space in the house. Most important, though, is that you can offer support and encouragement, and a genuine understanding of what your child is trying to achieve between each lesson. Practice should focus on ‘sticky spots’ and other challenges rather than simple repetition – as well as giving your child a space to enjoy their instrument!
Once lessons are underway, you will encounter the occasional rocky moment. Your child is being asked to absorb a lot of new ideas, to become an independent learner and to think both logically and creatively. There are likely to be parts of that process which they find difficult, or which they don’t enjoy as much as others. It’s important that you don’t run from your teacher at the first clash – it’s almost certain that he or she has met similar challenges before and has techniques to guide your child through them. Trust in their expertise, but don’t hesitate to ask why they’re using a certain approach or technique; together you can better support your child and help them to understand and overcome challenges. If things get particularly tricky for a while, it might be best to arrange this conversation outside lesson time, when your child is out of the room.
On the other hand, children’s interests can change, their learning styles shift, or their musical ability may outgrow their first teacher. Don’t be afraid to consider moving on when the time is right, but be confident you’re not making that choice on a whim or based on a one-off event; a music teacher who understands and appreciates your child, and knows their strengths and struggles, is invaluable. If your child needs a new challenge, look for opportunities for them to enjoy their music outside lessons – children’s and youth ensembles, choirs, music clubs and festivals are all great opportunities to meet young musicians. If your child shows particular musical potential or talent, look out for holiday schools, regional or even national ensembles, and more advanced opportunities including one of the country’s excellent Advanced Training Centres or Specialist Music Schools.
Sarah Oliver, Head of Sixth Form Academic Music at Chetham’s, has received a prestigious Musica Britannica Trust Research Award towards her work examining music and culture of the 13th century, when Henry III reigned.
Sarah is studying for a PhD at the University of Huddersfield, where she will journey into England’s distant musical past, from 1216 to 1272. The Musica Britannica Trust Research Award – bestowed after she had submitted a detailed application to the judging panel – will enable her to acquire a costly facsimile edition of surviving repertoire from the Henry III period. This will be an important aid to her researches, which are supervised by the University of Huddersfield’s Dr Lisa Colton, Reader in Musicology and a leading authority on medieval music.
Set up in 1951, the Trusts core aim is to publish an authoritative national collection of British music.
The project marks the revival of a long-standing ambition to carry out doctoral research into music of the Middle Ages. Sarah studied music at Oxford in the 1990s and planned to move straight on to a PhD. But instead, her children came along and she embarked on a teaching career that led to her current post at Chetham’s.
“Now my daughter – former Chetham’s student Molly – is reading music at Cambridge and when she came back for her first vacation she brought a lot of medieval repertoire as holiday work and said ‘I need your help’. It reignited something that had always been on the back burner and made me think that this is the time,” said Sarah.
“Medieval music was my first love and has always been my greatest interest academically,” she added.
“Because Henry III had such a long reign – politically turbulent at times – there must be more to know about his relationship with music. He had a lot of chapels and was responsible for the rebuilding of Westminster Abbey,” said Sarah, adding that a considerable quantity of music from the period survives as fragments.
“A lot of it exists intriguingly and sometimes maddeningly as interpolations into miscellanies, so there will be a page of music written into a book that has nothing to do with music. So it is a question of wondering how it got there,” said Sarah, whose doctoral project will blend cultural history with sound and performance of the 800-year-old repertoire she is investigating.
This song title isn’t strictly appropriate, as the biennial Sixth Form French pilgrimage to our spiritual home actually took place in mid-February. But the weather gods were so provident that it may as well have been. Indeed, the City of Light lived up to its name as 12 A-level students spent five days with Mr Chillingworth and Mrs Harrison in radiant sunshine. Fitbits went into meltdown as we drank deep in the key landmarks of Parisian cultural heritage, from the Champs Elysées to Montmartre, via the lush Impressionist treats of the Musée d’Orsay and the Gothic splendour of Notre Dame Cathedral. There were several opportunities to research the A level topics, and those who sought it even had time for some retail therapy.
Interaction in French was the order of the day, despite all Parisians seemingly being pre-programmed to switch into English at the slightest soupçon of Anglo-Saxon infiltration! And despite warnings from the Foreign Office, our attempts to witness the spirit of 1968 reincarnated in the Gilet Jaune protestors were thwarted, alas, as it appears that contemporary French protestors only come out at the weekend!
No Chetham’s trip would be complete without some musical input. A tour of the original (and best, according to most) Opéra Garnier was followed by a trip to see the Orchestre de Paris perform Berlioz’ gargantuan Grande Messe des Morts in his 150th anniversary year, complete with four brass choirs, ten timpanists and a massed choir of 170!
On a slightly more intimate scale, the final evening was given over to the famous Caveau de la Huchette jazz club recently popularized in the movie La La Land. And never ones to turn down a chance to perform, the students joined an indigenous busker in an impromptu rendition of the unofficial Chets anthem Don’t Look Back in Anger! Despite the impressive improvised harmonies, which are, incidentally, readily available to view on the @ChetsLanguages twitter feed, our participation did nothing to enhance his income, sadly…
Spring Music week is always an exciting time of year. As the new season dawns, students lay aside their text books and spend a week in rehearsals with our various larger ensembles, preparing for a series of concerts in school and across the UK.
This year was a particular momentous one, marking the first performances of Chetham’s 50th anniversary year for our two orchestras, Sax Choir, Wind Band and Violetta Strings, as well as for singers in an innovative new take on ‘Opera Extracts’.
Sixth Form Singers: the Drama of the Oratorio
It was the singers who started the week on Sunday 10 February, giving two performances of Margaret McDonald’s reduced version of Mendelssohn’s Elijah. Semi-staged, and taking place for the first time in the Carole Nash Hall to take advantage of our new building’s lighting equipment and projection, it told the entire tale in miniature, drawing out all the drama of the original oratorio. Our thanks to the many students and staff who helped bring it together!
Chetham’s Sinfonia and Ensembles
Next up were our smaller groups and younger ensembles. The Sax Choir, under Andy Wilson, gave the North West première of Ivor McGregor’s Film Noir – to be performed again at our forthcoming Saxophone Day for players of all ages. Violetta Strings, our youngest ensemble led by Dr Owen Cox, performed popular selections by Karl Jenkins, Britten, Bizet and Grieg, ending with the mounting excitement of In the Hall of the Mountain King. Next were Wind Band with David Chatterton, performing Woolfenden’s Illyrian Dances, and after the interval our Middle School orchestra, Chetham’s Sinfonia took to the stage.
Bassoonist George Bailey, 13, was one of the recent winners of our Lower School Concerto Competition, and performed the first movement of Hummel’s Grand Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra, to the pride of the numerous family and friends who filled The Stoller Hall and of his teacher, Ben Hudson, who dashed back from work in Yorkshire to ensure he wouldn’t miss it. After George’s well-deserved ovation, and flowers presented by little sister Jemima, Sinfonia closed the concert with Arnold’s Little Suite and Coates’ London Suite, conducted by David Chatterton and Nicholas Jones.
Sinfonia play Coates' London Suite ( molto allegro!!!)
Chetham’s Symphony Orchestra
It wasn’t over yet! After inviting parents to join them in rehearsal at the weekend, and the public to sit alongside them onstage to explore the context and challenges of the programme, Chetham’s Symphony Orchestra performed in both Manchester and at the Royal Academy in London with Director of Music, Stephen Threlfall, at the helm. Their programme opened with Britten’s Four Sea Interludes and continued with Sibelius’ virtuosic Violin Concerto, performed by Molin Han. As an aside, that work was last played by the orchestra with a young Jiafeng Chen as soloist back in 2006; Jiafeng is now a tutor at the school, and performs the complete Beethoven Violin Sonatas and Piano Trios in six concerts across our anniversary year, joined by pianist Jianing Kong and our very own Head of Strings, Nicholas Jones, on cello.
Molin, meanwhile, is in her final year at Chetham’s, studying with Jan Repko. After many successes in her native China she joined the School for Sixth Form, and looks forward to continuing to the Royal College of Music in September. Her performance was met with huge applause, impressing audience members with her poise and expression.
Last was Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations – a celebration of friendship through music, and the perfect piece to celebrate the many friends, supporters and allies who have been part of the School throughout its first half century. Our ability to challenge and support students as they reach new musical heights is down to every one of our students, staff, parents, alumni and donors, and it was those friendships which our orchestra expressed with such flair on, appropriately enough, St Valentine’s Day.
Students are now enjoying a well-deserved half term break, but not for long. Singers return tonight and tomorrow, for a weekend of song with former students Marcus Farnsworth and Ruby Hughes, as well as fellow students from the Royal Northern College of Music. For many of our orchestral players, it’s only a short break until our next concert on Sunday 10 March, a celebration of music and faith with Manchester Chamber Choir which includes music by Purcell, Handel, and Poulenc’s Organ Concerto performed by Chetham’s soloist, George Herbert.
For the rest, the next challenge is a mighty one indeed – Mahler’s magnificent Symphony No. 8, live on BBC Radio 3 from The Bridgewater Hall on Friday 5 July. We know it’s been performed by young players before, by the National Youth Orchestra and by the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra, conducted by former Chetham’s student Daniel Harding. But are we the first school to tackle it? Let us know in the comments if you’ve heard of such a feat before!
A year of events to mark Chetham’s 50th Anniversary year is already underway, launched by Chetham’s students, staff and parents, past and present, and continuing with the first of fifty concerts in this special year. We’ve also enjoyed meeting former students from across the years to take part in the 50 Portraits series, with the first batch now on display in the Oglesby Atrium.
Alongside our regular Open Day on Saturday 19 January, we invited former staff and students to explore Chetham’s alongside our prospective pupils. Uniquely, the Open Day provides a space for visitors to explore the school independently, to sit in on rehearsals and performance classes, and to chat to music and academic staff as well as fellow visitors. After the Open Day we were delighted that a group of alumni remained for drinks in the Medieval Buildings and, by all accounts, for several hours afterwards in neighbouring bars!
On Sunday, a larger group gathered onstage to sing Karl Orff’s Carmina Burana under the direction of Stephen Threlfall. Many of them warned us they might be rusty, but they succeeded in rehearsing the entire work and performing it to a gathering of family and friends before the end of the day! Huge thanks to everybody who was involved, and especially to our Percussion Department, and to piano alumnae Lulu Yang and Jill Fogden, who supported them instrumentally; and to three singers from RNCM who joined us for the solo lines.
We’ll next be meeting up with alumni in the Marylebone pub in London on Friday 15 February, after Chetham’s Symphony Orchestra perform at the Royal Academy of Music – we look forward to seeing even more familiar faces next month!
The first of fifty concerts in our anniversary season took place last night, Tuesday 22 January. The Gould Piano Trio were joined by clarinettist Robert Plane and composer Huw Watkins for a pre-concert talk – between them representing three alumni, one Summer School tutor, and two former parents! the concert itself featured works by Sally Beamish – tying into our This Woman’s Work celebration of women composers – Pierre Boulez and Shostakovich, as well as Huw Watkins’ Four Fables in its North West premiere. And their involvement didn’t end there – Huw and Robert remained on Wednesday to lead masterclasses with composition and clarinet students, as Chetham’s musical family travels down the generations.
Our Fifty Concerts series continues with visits from former students Leon McCawley, Jiafeng Chen, Marcus Farnsworth and Ruby Hughes within the next month, as well as student performances in Manchester and London for our Spring Music Weeek.
Throughout the autumn, photographer Sara Porter has been meeting alumni in Manchester and London to capture this unique moment in Chetham’s history. The images will be displayed in the Atrium throughout the year, with the first batch going on show in time for the Reunion Weekend. Huge thanks to everyone who’s been involved so far, or who is on the list for the final photography sessions this year – keep an eye on our social media, and Sara’s website, as new portraits emerge from the editing suite!
Over the last fifty years, Chetham’s has played a significant role in nurturing the future of the nation’s music culture. We have an ambitious fundraising target of £500,000 to raise across 2019, securing the same quality of education and creativity for years to come.
Our thanks to the supporters who have already helped us, if you’d like to make a gift to our 50th Anniversary Fund, please go to this page or contact the Development Team.
Gift Aid it – If you’re a UK taxpayer you could increase the value of your gift by allowing us to claim back 25p for every £1 you give by joining the Gift Aid scheme. And it’s at no cost to you. Gift Aid allows us to reclaim from the Government the tax on your donation.