Music

Music

  • J Ling BA - Director of Music
  • JT Cooper BA - Director of Choral Music

MUSIC

The Music Department offers a wide variety of co-curricular performance opportunities which support and enhance our academic provision. An inclusive environment is encouraged, where boys and girls of all ages and abilities are given the opportunity to perform in concerts and competitions both within school and further afield. We are most fortunate to have several performance venues on our doorstep, including the brand new Creative Arts Centre, Y Neuadd Goffa: The Memorial Hall (opened September 2013) and the school chapel, with its fabulous acoustic for singing. Two or three performances each year, including the carol service, take place at Brecon Cathedral which is just a 10 minute walk away. The Theatr Brycheiniog, also in Brecon, is available as a versatile venue and further afield, Brangwyn Hall in Swansea has also been used for large-scale works. In addition to these concerts, the department organises tours both nationally and internationally.

A number of music awards are offered to the most gifted and dedicated pupils. The Director of Music is always pleased to meet and advise prospective applicants prior to auditions taking place.

Instrumental & Singing Teaching

Christ College allows for extensive provision of specialist individual teaching for instrumentalists and singers. Currently about 40% of the school receive individual lessons within the department and 160 lessons are timetabled each week allowing for minimal disruption to the academic timetable. Lessons are available on piano, organ, violin, viola, cello, double bass, flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, saxophone, horn, trumpet, trombone, euphonium, tuba, percussion, classical and electric guitar and singing. Individual theory lessons are also available for those needing to prepare for the ABRSM Grade 5 Theory examination. There are currently 10 Visiting Instrumental Teachers, many of whom perform regularly in BBC and other professional orchestras and choirs; the 3 full time staff also teach a proportion of pupils, allowing for greater timetabling flexibility. Pupils are encouraged to prepare for the examinations of either the ABRSM or Trinity College London and they are given opportunities to prepare themselves for performance through a series of informal Monday evening ‘Open Mic’ events that run throughout the year.

One only has to attend chapel to appreciate that there is a very strong culture of singing in the school. Every single pupil will find themselves on stage during the course of a year and there is a huge sense of pride on display in the annual House Singing Competition, which is one of the most fiercely contested whole school events that take place. Individual singing lessons are encouraged for those wanting to perform with one of the school choirs and at present there are about 30 pupils who take advantage of these lessons, offered by two specialist vocal coaches.

Several pupils have performed with high profile organisations outside of school in recent years, including the National Youth Choir of Great Britain, The National Youth Choir of Wales, the National Children’s Choir of Great Britain and the National Schools Symphony Orchestra. 

Orchestras, Bands & Ensembles

The provision of opportunities for boys and girls to play in an ensemble is far reaching. There are some 17 instrumental groups that meet regularly and several other smaller groups that would come together for special events. These groups are run by the relevant instrumental teacher and would usually include all of the pupils learning an instrument. Currently about 50% of the school participate in an instrumental ensemble. Those pupils learning outside of school are also most welcome to participate. Membership of some of the groups is tailored to certain ages or ability levels:
  • Junior Wind Sinfonia
  • Senior Wind Sinfonia
  • Flute Choir
  • Junior Chamber Wind
  • Senior Chamber Wind
  • Junior Percussion
  • Intermediate Percussion
  • Senior Percussion
  • Junior Chamber Percussion
  • Senior Chamber Percussion
  • Senior Tuned Percussion
  • Junior Guitar Ensemble
  • Senior Guitar Ensemble
  • Brass Ensemble
  • String Orchestra
  • ‘Crescendo’ Orchestra 

Choirs

  • Alway Singers is a younger choir made up of singers from the junior boarding house
  • Chamber Choir is an auditioned choir for senior pupils, singing a wide repertoire of mainly unaccompanied music
  • Chapel Choir numbering some 50 pupils, is a group of auditioned singers from across the age spectrum of the school who come together to provide high quality music for services and concerts throughout the year. Rehearsals are held three times a week and the choir sings at the weekly Wednesday morning service in addition to other special services and occasions. The choir toured to Paris in February 2013 and Prague in February 2015. A CD of Christmas music entitled Lux was recorded in the college chapel in 2013.
  • Choral Society is open to all members and friends of the college community. The Choral Society meets on Monday evenings at 6.30p.m. to rehearse large-scale works. In recent years they have combined with other college choirs, as well as the Brecon Singers (the town choral society conducted by the Director of Music at Christ College), to perform works such as Mozart’s Vesperae solennes de confessore (March 2015), John Rutter’s Requiem (November 2014), Vivaldi’s Gloria (November 2013), Verdi’s Requiem (April 2013) and Carmina Burana by Carl Orff (April 2012), using professional orchestral musicians and soloists.

Concerts, Competitions and Productions

The academic year is barely underway when each house begins to focus on the House Music Competition, held in October and one of the most fiercely contested events in the college calendar. There are two separate events, the House Instrumental Competition and House Singing Competition, which carry equal weighting. For the Instrumental Competition, each house puts forward a soloist representative in each of the categories of Woodwind, Brass, Percussion, Strings and Keyboard, and they also prepare an acoustic ensemble item. In the House Singing Competition, each house chooses a unison song, involving every member of the house, as well as a part song for any number of singers. In addition, the Music department chooses a traditional Welsh song which must be arranged by the house and sung in the medium of Welsh. Previous adjudicators of the competition include Michael Chance CBE and Barry Rose OBE.

The St Cecilia Concert in November is a celebration of the work achieved by many of the ensembles and choirs. In the Lent term there are several evening concerts, led by visiting instrumental teachers, which continue to focus on the work undertaken by pupils in their weekly lessons and ensemble rehearsals:
  • Piano, Harp & Strings
  • Woodwind & Brass
  • Percussion
  • Guitars and Bands

Two externally sponsored competitions take place in the Lent term; the Instrumentalist of the Year Competition, sponsored by an Old Breconian, and the Singer of the Year Competition, sponsored by Lloyds Bank, are invitational events open to musicians of all ages who have reached a high level of proficiency on their instrument.

In March or April, the Choral Society Concert brings together amateur and professional musicians in a performance of a large-scale work in an external venue. In recent years the Choral Society have combined with other college choirs, as well as the Brecon Singers (the town choral society, conducted by the Director of Music at Christ College), to perform works such as Carmina Burana by Carl Orff (April 2012), Verdi’s Requiem (April 2013), Haydn’s Nelson Mass (March 2014) and Mozart’s Vesperae solennes de confessore (March 2015).

Music and Drama departments and have worked closely together to produce a long line of stage musical productions. Almost a third of the college community came together in December 2013 to perform Les Misérables (School Edition) in the new Creative Arts Centre, Y Neuadd Goffa. In the Summer term each year there is a junior production for Alway House members (Years 7 and 8), which has often been a musical. Bugsy was performed in June 2014 and The Lion King (Jnr) in June 2015.

In addition to these special events, the Music department organises a fortnightly series of ‘Open Mic’ events, which are designed to provide soloists with an informal setting in which to hone their performance and presentation skills. Musicians preparing for ABRSM or Trinity examinations, auditions, competitions, GCSEs and A levels often find these sessions invaluable. ‘Open Mic’ events take place in the Phillips Drama Studio in Y Neuadd Goffa: The Memorial Hall.

Music Awards

Music award holders are expected to represent the very highest standards in terms of ability and commitment. They will demonstrate genuine enthusiasm for what they do and set an excellent example both within school and in the wider community.

Music award holders will:
  • demonstrate a genuine passion for music making at the highest levels
  • make the study and rehearsal of Music their first priority
  • show evidence of excellent results in practical examinations, auditions and public performance
  • show consistent commitment to the improvement of their own skills
  • participate in at least two major ensembles or choirs
  • perform as a soloist both in and out of school at appropriate events.
  • if first study pianists, act as accompanists for soloists and chamber ensembles
  • study Music at GCSE
  • attend and participate in master classes given by visiting musicians

The audition process for Music awards is intended to discover musical aptitude, promise and a genuine passion and commitment to producing excellent results. Strong evidence of these key factors will far outweigh any previous results in examinations. However, as a rough guide, candidates in the 11+ age group should normally be at least ABRSM Grade 4 standard on their first study instrument and in the 13+ age group, ABRSM Grade 6 standard on their first study instrument.

At audition, candidates will be asked to:

  • Perform two contrasting pieces on their first study instrument
  • Perform one piece on their second study instrument
  • Play scales and arpeggios as directed
  • Perform an appropriate level of sight reading on their first study instrument
  • Complete a set of aural and voice tests
  • Discuss their motivations and intentions in relation to academic and practical aspects of the subject

Candidates may bring their own accompanist (if applicable) or, if an accompanist is required, the piano part should be sent to the Music department at least one week before the date of the audition.

Music Staff

Director of Music: Jonathan Ling

Director of Choral Music: Jonathan Cooper

Assistant Organist: Stephen Power

Visiting Instrumental Teachers

Tim Cronin (Violin and Viola)

Alan Davies (Cello and Double Bass)

Gareth Hamlin (Percussion)

Jeremy Herbert (Guitar)

Jack Pickford (Piano)

Rob Johnson (Brass)

Elisabeth Priday (Voice)

Delyth Taylor (Voice)

Katherine Thomas (Harp)

Clare Walker (Woodwind)

ACADEMIC

Aims

  • to engage pupils with their cultural heritage, helping them to understand their place alongside the development of musical language;
  • that pupils will develop an understanding of the way in which music is constructed, produced and influenced by time and place in the context of a particular style or genre;
  • to foster in pupils an increasingly critical and analytical vocabulary;
  • to encourage and reward successful group work, independence of thought, self-discipline and creativity;
  • to bring the subject to life through a range of practically based interactive activities.  

Year 7 pupils receive two 35 minute lessons each week. They are introduced to a broad spectrum of musical experience that requires no previous knowledge of the subject. A study of the building blocks of music, essential keyboard skills and exposure to the performance of a significant piece of music alongside professional musicians are key features of work during this first year.

Year 8 pupils also receive two 35 minute lessons each week. Building on the knowledge and understanding inherited from the previous year, pupils explore the development of harmony and melody writing through a range of practical activities and listening exercises. They are introduced to the relationship between words and music and how these can work effectively together. The descriptive power of music is also studied through listening to an historical work founded on programmatic principles and pupils explore how pictures and art can provide the inspiration and stimulus for composition.

Year 9 pupils receive two 35 minute lessons for a portion of the year, alongside other Creative Arts Faculty subjects. Towards the end of the academic year they are given the option of choosing two out of three of the subjects offered, one of which might be Music. The focus of this year is centred on the development of Popular music through a study of The Blues as well as a Film Music unit where, following the study of certain specific features, pupils are given the opportunity to use ICT to compose music for a short film extract.

GCSE

The study of Music at GCSE level is open to all pupils with an interest in developing skills in the three areas of Listening (40% of the marks), Composing (30% of the marks) and Performing (30% of the marks). We follow the Edexcel specification and whilst it is necessary for each pupil to perform on an instrument (which can be voice), the course is designed to be inclusive and accessible to pupils with a wide range of musical interests and tastes. Historical periods from around 1650 to the present day are studied through a series of set works which might include jazz and popular music as well as music from non-Western cultures.

A Level

We follow the Edexcel specification at AS and A2. The AS course offers a relatively smooth transition for the pupil who is successful in the GCSE examination and this is a viable option for as many as wish to try it. The A2 examination offers a more rigorous test of performing, composing and analytical skills, with more option to focus on individual strengths. A strong background in music theory and an ability to perform on an instrument to at least ABRSM Grade 6 standard is desirable.