Masses Voices in Peterborough Cathedral
1st June 2015

On Friday 1 May, 226 singers united with an orchestra of some 80 players under the batons of the legendary Howard Goodall (best known for his theme tunes for TV series such as QI, Mr Bean and The Vicar of Dibley), Angus Gibbon (Head of Strings at Oundle School), Martin Ratcliffe (Director of Music at The King’s School in Peterborough) and Quentin Thomas (Director of Music at Oundle School). Performers came from Oundle School, The King’s School, Peterborough, The Rushden Academy and Wrenn School in Wellingborough and choral societies from around the area, most notably the Peterborough Choral Society. They were joined by soloists Claire Lees (soprano) and Andrew Kennedy (tenor).

Bringing together so many people to perform works on this scale was the brainchild of Quentin Thomas, responding to Sir Ewan Harper’s request to perform the work Every Purpose under the Heaven which, with his wife Jenny, was commissioned in 2011 as a gift for The United Church Schools Trust. The couple sponsored this performance to mark their 50th wedding anniversary. Every Purpose under the Heaven which filled the first half of the concert, is an oratorio composed by Howard Goodall to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible in 2011. 



The second half of the concert offered a brief and impressing Czech dance from Oundle School’s string players, and a sensitive rendition of Venus of Holsts’ The Planets from the King’s School. The main focus on the second half returned to the massed voices and orchestra with an enthralling and mesmeric performance of the much-loved Armed Man Mass by Karl Jenkins under the baton of Oundle School’s Director of Music, Quentin Thomas. Of note was the stunning opening with the Call to Prayer being sung from the lofty triforium of the Cathedral by Sirwan from the UKIM Masjid Khadijah & Islamic Centre Mosque, and the concluding Benedictus, with cellist Peter Adams enshrining the proceedings with beautiful serenity.

Sir Ewan Harper commented, “It was a very great pleasure and a privilege to be able to celebrate our golden wedding by providing the opportunity for young musicians to sing this marvellous piece in Peterborough Cathedral and we were delighted when Howard Goodall agreed to come and conduct his work.”

Director of Music at Oundle, Quentin Thomas commented, “The sense of journey on this project was immensely fulfilling, with 300 musicians being brought together for a purposeful and special occasion beyond the possibilities of our everyday aspirations. The planning was immense and the response from the performers and audience alike, wholly satisfying. Peterborough Cathedral provided the perfect setting and the friendliness and excitement of all involved was palpable and invigorating.”

Choral, Instrumental and Organ Scholarships are available at Oundle at 11+, 13+ and 16+. For further details contact the Director of Music, Quentin Thomas on 01832 277132 or email


Oundle’s Facilities and Partnerships

Oundle School’s Music Department is recognised as being one of the best among the top Independent Schools in the UK. Music facilities are excellent and the music school is housed in a handsome Georgian building with a range of practice and teaching rooms, music library, technology suite and recording studio.

The partnership with Yamaha offers a fleet of first-class pianos across the entire School. The Chapel boasts two organs – the world renowned Frobenius Organ and a larger romantic, Copeman Hart organ. The Great Hall has a Steinway D grand piano and the School also has a 2 manual harpsichord and practice organ.

A partnership between the School and The Royal College of Music was launched in January 2012. The aim of this unique partnership - Oundle School is the only UK school to have such an agreement - is to give to musically talented pupils opportunities to work with, and learn from, the many eminent professors and their students from the RCM through carefully planned joint events such as concerts, Masterclasses and, for exceptional pupils, individual consultation lessons.

Oundle School’s reputation for Music attracts many talented pupils and we are delighted that we can offer those with aspirations to perform at a professional level very valuable long-term coaching and guidance about how to be playing at Conservatoire standard by the time they are in their Upper Sixth year.

Concerto opportunities, solo performance experiences, tours (such as to Hong Kong, France, Italy, Barbados, Ireland, USA, Austria, Germany), recordings and a plethora of concerts (many in prestigious concert halls such as Birmingham Symphony Hall, St John’s Smith Square, St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey) are constantly evolving projects, ensuring that a live, vibrant and stimulating environment pervades across our department.


Background Information on Oundle School

Oundle School is situated in the quintessentially English market town of Oundle, about 90 miles north of London. The School’s buildings, dating from the 17th to the 21st centuries, are dispersed throughout the town, which is, to a large extent, its campus.

The School’s history dates 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 Grocer’s Company divided the School into two parts; Laxton Grammar School, primarily for the inhabitants of the town, and Oundle School, primarily for pupils from further afield. In 2000, the Grocers’ Company reunited the two schools under the common name of Oundle School and retained the name of Laxton for the day House.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Oundle was put firmly on the map of leading English public schools by its most famous headmaster, F W Sanderson, who established Oundle’s reputation as one of the great science and engineering schools, a reputation still renowned today. In 2007, SciTec - a major and ground-breaking new science complex - opened, housing 16 state-of-the-art laboratories. The School is now embarking on a large SciTec Campus development project which will see a new Mathematics department constructed adjacent to SciTec as well as a significant upgrade to the Design and Technology department within the Patrick Engineering Centre. Due for completion in September 2016, the development will unite Science, Mathematics, Design, Technology and Engineering both physically and philosophically, enabling pupils to move seamlessly from theory to practice and from pure science to the achievement of a workable technology. A concurrent Sports Masterplan will upgrade sporting facilities across the School over the next few years, including a new 1st XI cricket pavilion due to open April 2015. 

There are currently 1100 pupils on roll at Oundle School, with 850 boarders and 250 day pupils. Also within the Corporation of Oundle School is Laxton Junior School, a day School for children aged 4 to 11. 

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