The Music Department encourages an inclusive environment, 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 have several performance venues on our doorstep, including the 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 and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff have also been used for large-scale works. In addition to these concerts, the department organises tours both nationally and internationally.
“Music is top-notch … and the singing in chapel has to be heard to be believed!”
The Good Schools Guide
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 11 Visiting Instrumental Teachers, many of whom perform regularly in BBC and other professional orchestras and choirs; the 2 full time staff also teach a proportion of instrumental lessons. 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 ‘Soundbites’ concerts 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, The National Youth Orchestra of Wales and the National Schools Symphony Orchestra, the Claire Jones Harp Summer School and the American Youth Harp Ensemble.
- Chamber Choir is an auditioned choir for senior pupils in Year 10 and above, inging a wide repertoire of mainly unaccompanied music.
- Chapel Choir numbering some 50 pupils, is a group of auditioned singers from Year 7 and above 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, Prague February 2015 and Rome February 2017, notably performing in St Peter’s Basilica. In 2019 the choir were hosted by our sister school, King Henry VIII School in Malaysia. A CD of Christmas music entitled Lux was recorded in the college chapel in 2013.
- The Community Choir is open to all members and friends of the college community. The Choral Society meets at certain times of the year on Monday evenings at 6.30 pm 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), to perform works such as Carmina Burana by Carl Orff (April 2012), Verdi’s Requiem (April 2013) Vivaldi’s Gloria (November 2013); Rutter’s Requiem (November 2014), Mozart’s Vespera solennes de confessore (March 2015), Ahoy! Sing for the Mary Rose by Alexander L’Estrange (2016). In November 2018 a performance of Zimbe! by Alexander L’Estrange took place at Brecon Cathedral with choirs from several local primary schools and prep schools joining the Christ College choirs.
Orchestras, Bands & Ensembles
The provision of opportunities for boys and girls to play in an ensemble is far reaching.
There are some 13 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
- Senior Chamber Wind
- Junior Percussion
- Intermediate Percussion
- Senior Percussion
- Guitar Ensemble
- Cello Ensemble
- Senior String Quartet
- Chamber Orchestra
- String Orchestra
Concerts, Competitions & Productions
The academic year is packed with a wonderful variety of concerts, competitions and productions that suits every taste and talent.
The 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 three of their strongest soloists to represent them in the various instrumental categories; 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. Both competitions are judged by distinguished professional musicians.
As well as the main choral and orchestral concerts in the Michaelmas and Lent terms, 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 Creative Risk Solutions, are invitational events open to musicians of all ages who have reached a high level of proficiency on their instrument.
Music and Drama departments 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, and this was followed by and this was followed by Grease (2015), Phantom of the Opera (2018) and Scrooge (2019). In the summer term each year there is a junior musical production for Alway House members (Years 7 and 8), which has often been a musical: Bugsy (2014), The Lion King (Jnr) (2015), Annie (Jnr) (2016); The Jungle Book (Jnr) (2017); Alice in Wonderland (2018) and Beauty and the Beast (2019).
In addition to these special events, the Music department organises a series of ‘Open Mic’ events, which are designed to provide soloists and ensembles 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 Powell Galley in Y Neuadd Goffa: The Memorial Hall at 5.15pm on several Mondays each term.