Over October half term, ten Oundle pupils flew out to Hong Kong from the UK and were joined there by a further thirteen Oundle pupils who are resident in Hong Kong to form a Chamber Orchestra of twenty-three players. The group was accompanied on the trip by Catriona Redding (Head of International Admissions), Quentin Thomas (Director of Music) and Angus Gibbon (Head of Strings).
The first concert took place at St John’s Cathedral, Central, Hong Kong and started with a performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, with Oundle’s violinists each taking turns to direct the orchestras as soloists. The soloists were: Spring: Raffaella Watson, Nicholas Wong, Anneka Shah, Summer: Satoshi Oshima, Mark Bonner, Autumn: Marcus Lo, Francis Yiu and Winter: Kevin Law, Alice Liow, Nicholas Ho. Both of the School cellists (Linus Lam and Alice Etheridge) shared the important role as solo continuo cello.
The younger members of the ensemble (Sophie Lee, Jungho Lee, Sam Townend, Ralph Phillips, HeeSahng Kim, Alice Etheridge and Harrison Smith) then performed two movements of the Vivaldi Concerto for four violins, viola, cello and bass.
For the second half of the concert the orchestra was enlarged by Oundle School woodwind players: Bosco Wong, Alice Liow, Samuel Mok and Thomas Marinko. The orchestra was also augmented by several very talented string players (some as young as eight years old) from the Yao Jue Music Academy Hong Kong and other talented young musicians from Hong Kong.
Head of Strings at Oundle School, Angus Gibbon commented, “The highlight of this part of the concert was a performance of Beethoven’s 3rd Piano concerto with concert pianist and Old Oundelian (former pupil), Clarence Lam. Clarence directed the orchestra with great sensitivity and then played the solo piano part with real artistry and flair.”
The concert concluded with a moving account of Vaughan Williams Dives & Lazarus with a beautiful cello solo from Linus Lam accompanied by four solo violins.
The evening finished with a reception for the whole Oundle community in Hong Kong at The Chariot Club with many Old Oundelians as well as families of both current and prospective Oundelians. Next up was a concert in Shanghai on Saturday 22nd October. However, the tropical weather took charge and thanks to a Force 8 Typhoon, travel was made somewhat difficult!
“Plans for the journey to Shanghai on the Friday were postponed and carefully rearranged so that straight upon arrival in Shanghai on Saturday 22nd the pupils went into rehearsals with over thirty young string players who had gathered at the newly opened Harrow International School Shanghai for the Shanghai String Festival.”
In addition to the rehearsals, there was an afternoon violin masterclass given by Jaifeng Chen at which three very talented Shanghai pupils performed. In the evening Oundle pupils performed in a short concert alongside the choir from Harrow International Shanghai and the evening concluded with speeches about the value of British Boarding Education by Sarah Kerr-Dineen ( Head of Oundle School) and David Cook ( Head of Harrow International, Shanghai) with many parents and educators present.
The major concert of the trip took place on Sunday 23rd October at the Oriental Arts Centre, Shanghai. For this concert the orchestra was joined by the internationally acclaimed Violinist Jaifeng Chen. Jaifeng is an Assistant Professor at the Royal College of Music, London and his presence (funded by the Royal College of Music) was to highlight the special partnership between the RCM and Oundle School.
Angus commented, “For all concerned the venue - the Recital Hall in the Oriental Arts Centre Shanghai - has to be the finest auditorium any of us have played in. It has a circular stage and is based on a Roman Amphitheatre with audience surrounding the players for 270 degrees. The venue and soloist inspired one of the most impressive performances given by Oundelians in any concert in the past fifteen years.”
The second half of the concert featured all of the collaborative work with the Shanghai musicians forming a string orchestra of over fifty players to perform Handel’s Fireworks, Copland’s Hoe Down, Vaughan Williams’ Dives & Lazaurus and Pavel Fischer’s Moravian Dance. The Oundle Strings also accompanied the choir of Harrow International Shanghai.
There was a post-concert reception in the Paris Restaurant in Oriental Arts Centre with many Old Oundelians, parents and families of current and prospective Oundelians in attendance.
The tour also included a visit to the Shanghai Middle Music School where Oundle pupils attended an orchestral rehearsal and violin masterclass. This was the school where Jaifeng Chen started his musical journey (followed by RCM and later Juilliard in New York). Finally, the trip concluded with a three hour walking food tour lead by Jamie from ‘Untours’, Shanghai who recently featured on Rick Stein’s ‘Food of Shanghai’ series. Pupils and staff were introduced to over twenty local dishes including spicy crayfish, scallops, ‘fat-bottomed’ lamb and hand stretched noodles.
Angus concluded, “All in all this was an extraordinary musical and cultural experience for all who took part – including several sets of parents who travelled from UK, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Seoul to join us for the concerts.”
Director of Music, Quentin Thomas commented, “Each year since 2005, Oundelians from Hong Kong have given concerts to parents, friends and guests who would not normally be able to hear them perform in the UK. Originally these concerts were given by pianists only, but as the musical profile of Oundle School has grown internationally, we have attracted many very good players of other instruments too.
We are delighted that, during our tour, our musicians had the exciting opportunities of working alongside Jaifeng Chen from the Royal College of Music, London, Oundle’s former pupil, Clarence Lam and pupils from the Yao Jue Music Academy – an Academy committed to enlightening and nurturing young musical talents of the next generation.
The concert at St John’s Cathedral was designed to celebrate the talents of all of our pupils and continue our tradition of bringing pupils to play for the large Oundle School community in Hong Kong. It was both an honour and a pleasure to be giving these concerts and we are very grateful to the many hosts and organisers whose effort made our aspirations possible.”