Four Generations in Massed Strings Concert
24th January 2014

The first concert of a New Year is always an exciting one, but the fact that four generations of musicians came together in Oundle School’s Chapel on Thursday 16 January, to perform six diverse works, made this year’s concert all the more memorable.

Violinist and Music Scholar, Serena Shah (17) commented, “With the help of our teachers (members of the first generation of music making) our friends from the Royal College of Music String Band (members of the second generation) and the string players of Oundle (ranging from First Form (Year 7) to Sixth Form (Year 13) (making up the third generation), the concert opened with Handel’s Larghetto from Concerto Grosso No. 12.”

Following a vibrant and luscious rendition of the final two movements of the Serenade for Strings Op. 48 by Tchaikovsky, the stage was taken by the Year 2 children of Laxton Junior School (the youngest generation of musicians!). They performed four short pieces in which they demonstrated their talent and enthusiasm for playing their chosen string instrument, opening with Trolls, Orcs and Goblins which took the audience on a journey to Alton Towers, and finishing in New York with the Manhattan Blues.


Serena added, “For those children, it must have been a nerve wracking and an adrenaline filled experience, but for all of the rest of us, including our parents in the audience, it reminded us how years ago, we started off in exactly the same position on the excellent strings’ programme at LJS. This moment was one of the highlights of the whole evening as it showed every individual musician how far he or she has come with their instrument, how much they have achieved as a musician and a performer, and most importantly how much they enjoy and love music.”

The final piece of the first half of the concert was Elgar’s Sospiri, which not only showed off Oundle’s talented string players, but also the elegant playing of one of Oundle’s harpists and one of its organists. This was conducted by Mark Messenger, Head of Strings at RCM, and the difficulty and challenges of the piece’s flexible tempo was concealed by his clear and effective leadership.

After a short interval where the youngest generation of performers departed for a good night’s sleep, the RCM String Band dazzled the audience with, in Mark Messenger’s words, ‘two miserable pieces’. The first was a beautiful performance of Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten by Arvo Pärt in which Oundle’s Director of Music, Quentin Thomas, played the tolls of the bell’s part, making this specific performance unique and distinct as the notes resonated through the Chapel. It was easy to overlook that these Royal College Musicians were only eighteen and nineteen years old.


Quentin commented, “The final piece of the concert was Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony, introduced and put into its grim historical context superbly by Mark Messenger. The contrast of the disturbingly powerful with the uncomfortable peace in this work served as an excellent finale to a very memorable and fine concert; one that all four generations of musicians will remember for many years to come.”


Press contact:


Liz Dillarstone

Publicity and Press Relations Officer

Oundle School

01832 277267

07810 788458 

Background on the Unique Partnership between Oundle School

and the Royal College of Music


In January 2012, Oundle School entered into a unique partnership arrangement with the Royal College of Music, whereby pupils from the School gain the experience of working with professors and students from the College, both in Oundle and London.


The prime movers behind this arrangement were Mark Messenger, Head of Strings at the Royal College of Music, and Angus Gibbon, Head of Strings at Oundle School.


The memorandum of understanding between the two institutions was signed on Friday 13 January by Headmaster Charles Bush and Stephen Johns, Artistic Director of the Royal College of Music.


The historic signing was followed by a concert with all three areas of the educational spectrum: primary, secondary and tertiary.


Pupils from Oundle are invited to various masterclasses and workshops at RCM and highlights include regular visits from Professors and Heads of Departments of the RCM in the form of masterclasses and judging of the School’s annual Hepburn Music Competition. Oundle School Orchestras and Ensembles give concerts in the Amaryllis Fleming Concert Hall, Royal College of Music, London. Other events have included pupils attending rehearsals for Bruckner 8 taken by Bernard Haitink and the Chamber Orchestra’s performances of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto and Mendelssohn’s Double Concerto with Francesca Dego, Italian violinist and ex RCM student as part of the School’s General Studies Programme.


Oundle School works closely with the Oundle International Festival, Oundle for Organists and distinguished musicians such as Jeremy Menuhin, Natalie Clein, Michael Boccman and Craig Ogden. Pupils have taken part in joint projects with the English String Orchestra, the Aurora Orchestra and the Orchestra of the Swan.


The music programme at Oundle School is rich and varied, offering a stimulating musical environment to all musicians, whether in a popular or more traditional style. There is a range of ensembles to suit all abilities and interests. Concert venues have included Symphony Hall, Birmingham, West Road, Cambridge and Peterborough Cathedral.

Music Scholarships are awarded at 11+, 13+ and 16+ entry, in recognition of proven talent and solely on merit. All scholarships are underpinned by bursary assistance if the financial circumstances of the individual family necessitate it. The Director of Music is always pleased to meet with prospective music scholars. Please contact him at

                                               Background Information on Oundle School


Oundle School is situated in the quintessentially English Market town from which it takes its name. The School's buildings, dating from the seventeenth to the twenty-first century, are dispersed throughout the town, which is, to a large extent, its campus.

The School's history goes back to 1556 when Sir William Laxton, Master of the Worshipful Company of Grocers and Lord Mayor of London, endowed and re-founded the original Oundle Grammar School, of which he was a former pupil. In 1876, the Grocers' Company decided to divide the School into two parts: Laxton Grammar School, mainly for the inhabitants of the town, and Oundle School, mainly for pupils from further afield. However, to mark the new millennium, the Governing Body decided to reunite the two schools under the common name of Oundle School, with Laxton as a House for day-pupils.

The School is now able to offer a range of educational possibilities to meet contemporary needs: co-educational day or boarding education, with Laxton Junior as a 4-11 day school, and Oundle School as a boarding and day school, with entry at 11, 13 or into the Sixth Form.

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