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‘Spectacular’ swan song for the 2024 leavers

Musicians throughout the School celebrated the contributions of this year’s leavers at a special concert, with the Year 13s themselves enjoying one last chance to show what they can do.

The Leavers’ Concert paid full tribute to the final-year students, several of whom play in as many as seven ensembles.

The programme for the event in the Shearly Hall spanned many centuries and many musical genres, taking the audience from Mozart to Britney Spears.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “This was a musically spectacular evening, and it was heart-warming to hear not only the quality of musicianship, but also to see the gratitude the younger boys have towards the senior students who help direct, conduct and rehearse ensembles.

“The leavers themselves have made an immense contribution to music at the School, both through playing and through making time to conduct and direct other musicians. It should be remembered that they have done so while also participating in other aspects of School life: those performing at the concert included pupils holding offers from Oxbridge or to study medicine next year, demonstrating that high academic achievement and full extra-curricular involvement really can go hand in hand.”

Paying her own tribute, Director of Music Ruth Partington told the audience she and her colleagues were left wondering how they will manage without the Year 13 musicians next year!

The Jazz Bands and Senior Winds got everyone in the groove with pieces such as I Got Rhythm, Superstition and Sing, Sing, Sing, while the School Choir, supported by a pupil backing band, gave a foot-tapping performance of Elton John’s I’m Still Standing.

Highlights of the concert included performances by the Indian Ensemble. Year 13’s Isher Jagdev explained that the final piece, Tarana – Raag Basant, was a conversation and, with the help of Year 11’s Vase Pardeepan, went on to demonstrate that everything you can say can be played on tabla!

Miss Partington said: “It is great to see this ensemble growing in numbers, with new recruit Param Jani, of Year 7, showing wonderful vocal ability. Isher leaves it in great shape.”

The Electric Guitar Ensemble’s aptly chosen piece, Europe’s The Final Countdown, directed by leaver Shubh Rathod, opened the second half of  the concert.

Performed 40 years after it famously served as the accompaniment to Torvill and Dean’s figure-skating gold medal at the Sarajevo Winter Olympics, Ravel’s Boléro showcased many soloists and sections as it built towards its conclusion, even featuring the three Assistant Heads (Crispin Bonham-Carter, James Kane and Sarah Westcott) on percussion.

There was then a pause in proceedings for the Headmaster’s presentation of Music Colours and Bars. Among the nine boys awarded Colours, Noah Morley, of Year 10, received Senior Colours a year early, recognising his exceptional contribution to music at QE. Bars went to Harrison Lee and Nikhil Mark, both of Year 12.

Year 13 leavers then made their own presentation to the three music teachers – Director Miss Partington and Music teachers Rebecca German and Jas Hutchinson-Bazely – praising their guidance and support.

The Orchestra’s performance of Britney Spears’ hit, Toxic, delivered fun aplenty. Not only did this feature both tabla and an electronic remix by Year 13’s Indrajit Datta, but the appearance of glow sticks brought some rave vibes to the Shearly Hall – a QE first.

After wearing a white shirt and School tie along with his peers as he performed in multiple ensembles during the concert, Year 13’s Arjun Patel deftly made the change into black tie to conduct the Orchestra in Leavers’ Waltz, the final piece of the evening, which he had composed himself.

  • Click on the thumbnails below to view photos from the concert.
“Musical understanding and maturity” on full display as QE boys reach final of prestigious national competition

Two QE ensembles reached the national final of the only nationwide chamber music festival for schools.

The two groups – both in the U19 category – had been among no fewer than 12 QE ensembles to have reached the semi-finals of the 2024 Pro Corda Festival.

Director of Music Ruth Partington said: “The Pro Corda Festival is the only national festival to exclusively promote and celebrate chamber music within schools. It is a prestigious and vibrant celebration of chamber music education in the UK – and 2024’s was the biggest-ever. We were delighted to be able to host both one of the qualifying rounds and one of the semi-finals in The Friends’ Recital Hall here at QE.

“The standard was incredibly high, with students showing real musical understanding and maturity. While neither of our ensembles in the final was named among the winners, it was a great achievement to reach that stage and it was a wonderful and stretching musical experience for all involved.”

Entry in the festival is available to all instrumental ensembles of between three and nine players, who can be of any age from Year 7 to Year 13.

Seventeen ensembles from the School entered the qualifying round on 29th January. They included ensembles exclusively for piano, violin, trumpet and classical guitar, as well as those for a mix of instruments. Several of QE’s entrants were from mixed year groups, with younger and older musicians working together.

Their repertoire was varied, featuring the work of musical giants from different eras, including Beethoven and Irving Berlin, as well as of less well-known composers, such as Moszkowski, a German-Polish composer who wrote for piano.

In both the qualifying round and semi-final, the ensembles received expert feedback and tuition from an adjudicator in a short workshop after initially performing their pieces. They were then asked to respond to that feedback live, replaying sections of their music.

The following qualified for the semi-final: U19 Trumpet Ensemble; U19 Saxophone Ensemble; U19 Piano Trio A; U19 Saxophone Quintet; U19 Senior Piano Quartet; U19 Piano Trio B; U16 Violin Piano Trio B; U16 Piano Trio A; U16 Junior String Quartet; U16 Violin Trio B; U14 Junior Brass Ensemble A; and U16 Ensemble X.

QE’s top two ensembles then headed to Central Foundation Boys’ School in Shoreditch, London, for the national final. They are pictured here during their semi-final performances. They comprise:

  • U19 Violin Piano Trio A – violinists Jason Tao, of Year 12, and Ryuki Watanabe, of Year 11, with Year 10 pianist Noah Morley
  • U19 Saxophone Quintet – final-year students Arjun Patel and Nathan Woodcock playing alto sax, together with Tharun Dhamodharan (baritone, Year 13), Nikhil Mark (tenor, Year 12) and Leo Sellis (soprano, Year 11).

QE and the host school were the only state schools to reach the national final. On the day, all participants had the opportunity to meet and mingle with their peers from across the country.

Afterwards, Pro Corda’s CEO, Andrew Quartermain, championed the importance of chamber music for schools. Playing in chamber music ensembles provides “a pivotal and life-long musical and artistic training”, he said, praising the “sparky unique characters, the warm collaboration [and] the individuality in equal measure to the togetherness” seen during the festival.

The five Chamber Champion Ensembles named as winners at the national final were from: King’s High School, Warwick; Ipswich School; Eltham College, south London; Woldingham School, Surrey; and Portsmouth Grammar School.



“Wonderful variety, expert musicianship”

QE’s young composers demonstrated both their creativity and their virtuosity in a special concert showcasing their work.

The Chamber, Choral and Composition Concert featured pupils’ own compositions for their GCSE and A-level courses, which accounted for ten of the 16 pieces in the programme.

The breadth of style and genre was huge, from, for example, sixth-former Indrajit Datta’s opening piece, Sonata for Live Piano and Electronics, which introduced technology in a way not seen at QE before, to A Slave-Driven Fishing Trawler, by Ryuki Watanabe, of Year 11, who combined influences from heavy rock and sea shanties.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “Some of the concepts may perhaps sound  a little unusual, but there was wonderful variety, and what was striking was that the pieces were crafted with accomplishment, demonstrating real musical understanding and allowing the boys to playfully inject their personalities.

“Furthermore, it is remarkable not only that students can compose such inspiring, evocative and professional-sounding pieces, but that other boys (often in different year groups) have the skill to perform them so expertly. To invest time and care in learning and performing another student’s composition demonstrates the supportive culture that exists within QE’s musical community: the mutual respect was evident.”

The evening featured:

  • Final-year student Isher Jagdev’s Chardikala – a word which in Sikhism denotes a state of eternal optimism. This piece was inspired by the eternal hope of the warrior in the face of battle;
  • Revenge is a Virtue, by Tharun Dhamodharan, of Year 13, which continued the battle theme and featured a fast-moving narrative involving Leonardo di Caprio and Darth Vader in a lively action caper;
  • A Jazzy Slapstick Comedy, by Aarav Agarwal, of Year 11, which evoked the era of the silent movie;
  • Themes and Variations in B-Flat Major written for violin by Year 11’s Leo Sellis – one of a number of pieces that the boys wrote for instruments they do not themselves play.

There were also contributions from some of the younger ensembles taking part in this year’s Pro Corda competition, as well as a pair of well-known songs from the Barbershop and, as a rousing finale, Zadok the Priest, Handel’s coronation anthem played last year at the crowning of King Charles.

“Every composition performed was very strong, and many staggeringly so, but a special mention for [Year 12 pupil] Harrison Lee’s Magnificat, which was performed by a full orchestra and Chamber Choir,” the Headmaster added. “It was incredibly powerful, filling The Friends’ Recital Hall with sound. Like a number of other boys who composed for ensembles, he conducted the piece himself.

“Overall, the evening was a great credit to the pupils and the Music department. The musical output of the students seems to go from strength to strength. Across a significant stylistic range, the music was at a very high level, confidently introduced, produced and performed.”

Click on the thumbnails below to view photos from the concert.


First Organ Scholars from QE announced in new partnership with Barnet Parish Church

Sixth-former Joel Swedensky and Year 10’s Noah Morley have been named as the first-ever Organ Scholars under a new partnership between QE and St John the Baptist Church.

The pair will have increasing responsibility for playing the organ at services and for rehearsing the choir at the church, while also being fully involved in the extra-curricular Music programme at the School.

They have the opportunity to practise the instrument extensively at QE, which is now home to an electric organ supplied by the Royal College of Organists (RCO). The scholarships include an honorarium.

Team Vicar Fr Sam Rossiter-Peters said: “We are delighted to have welcomed Joel and Noah as Organ Scholars at St John the Baptist, and from the outset of their time with us have been hugely encouraged and impressed by their ability as organists, their commitment to service and learning, and their willingness (and the willingness of their families) to be part of the wider church community.

“Joel and Noah are a credit to Queen Elizabeth’s School. They are passionate about music, they engage with their fellows in the choir and organ loft, and they display considerable talent and potential as organists. Everyone I have spoken to in the church, both those who frequent the loft, and those who sit in the pews, speak very highly of both boys, who have made the scholarship programme a delight to run.”

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “We are very pleased to have launched this new partnership and hope that in the future there will be many more such Organ Scholars from QE. It fits in very well with the Evensong tradition that we are rapidly developing at QE: our Chamber Choir has sung Evensong both at the parish church and at Southwark Cathedral in recent months.

“Furthermore, the Organ Scholarship scheme with St John’s is not only important in itself; it also creates pathways to other opportunities, including scholarships at Oxford and Cambridge.”

Two Old Elizabethans have won Organ Scholarships from Cambridge in the 21st century – Drew Sellis (2013-2020) and Peter Yarde Martin (2002-2007), who is now a peripatetic Music teacher at the School.

More recently, current Year 13 student Arjun Patel has won a Choral Scholarship from Merton College, Oxford – one of the record-breaking 62 Oxbridge offers this year.  Another of the School’s peripatetic teachers, operatic tenor Rhys Bowden (OE 1996–2003) was a Choral Scholar at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, and then went on to study music at Girton College, Cambridge.

Joel and Noah’s role includes playing the church organ and conducting at Sunday morning Eucharist and Evensong. Working with the church’s Choirmaster and Organist Emeritus, Terence Atkins, they also attend Friday evening rehearsals, giving them additional experience of rehearsing the choir.

Similarly, at QE, they are working with various ensembles to gain experience both of conducting and of providing accompaniment.

QE’s Viscount Chorum 40-S organ was supplied last term by the RCO under its Organs in Schools programme for state schools. It was immediately put to good use, including during the recording session for Howard Goodall’s anthem, And Be It Known, which was commissioned to celebrate the 450th anniversary of the School.

Joel said: “It’s been really useful having the electric organ to practise on, as unlike with other instruments, it is usually a very difficult instrument to practise, so this has helped me get in significantly more practice time.”

“I am looking forward to gaining very useful experience in not only playing for services but also in choral conducting and accompaniment. Father Sam and choirmaster Terence have been very welcoming.”

One of the priorities of the parish church’s mission action plan is to become a centre of musical excellence. On Palm Sunday, 24th March, the church hosted a production of St John’s Passion by Bach.

Speaking ahead of the event, Father Sam said:“I am delighted to say that Noah will be playing for some of the chorales during the performance. This is a huge opportunity for Noah, as it is the largest production the church will have hosted for a few years, as we welcome the Anglo-Japanese Choir, several local dignitaries and distinguished guests, and honoured guests of the Japanese Embassy.

“I was equally delighted that Joel was able to take part in our interview process for our Director of Music and Musical Mission role. Joel stepped up to the occasion admirably, and was an invaluable voice amongst the wider appointment panel. His thoughts on the candidates made a material contribution to our choice, and we were pleased to appoint his preferred candidate.”

Noah and Joel (along with Zach Fernandes, of Year 8) have played at previous QE services at St John’s, as well as playing voluntaries at Southwark Cathedral prior to the Chamber Choir’s Evensong there last Summer Term.

The School is taking active steps to inspire boys to take up the organ. Peripatetic teacher Adam Hope has been teaching the instrument to Noah and Zach, who both passed grade 3 with distinction in a year.

Music teacher Jas Hutchinson-Bazely, who is himself an accomplished organist, has now started a club for pianists to come to learn more about the instrument, with a view to them taking lessons in the future.

He has also taken a wider group of potential organists to the parish church after school and has arranged a day at St Paul’s Cathedral with its Organ Education Lead, Jeremiah Stephenson. Eight musicians will visit: Joel, Noah, Zach and another existing organist, Year 7’s Gabriel Ward – plus another four who are attending the club. They will: be able to play all four instruments at St Paul’s; receive a masterclass from Jeremiah; watch the choir rehearse Evensong; and then attend with reserved seats in the Quire.


Sing in exultation: carol service a joyous end to 450th anniversary year

Queen Elizabeth’s School drew its 450th anniversary celebrations to a rousing, festive conclusion with its Service of Nine Lessons and Carols in Chipping Barnet parish church.

St John the Baptist Church was packed, with extra chairs having to be brought in to accommodate the unprecedented demand from the congregation made up of Year 7 boys and their parents, current and former staff, Governors and friends of the School.

While the service’s format was traditional, there were some innovative touches from the start, with, for example, an introit, The Little Drummer Boy, that was arranged by three sixth-formers, Isher Jagdev, Arjun Patel and Tharun Dhamodharan. The melody was played first by trumpets at the back of the church, but then by Isher, on the tabla, before the Chamber Choir came in with the vocals.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “With a bit of squeezing, we just about managed to fit everyone in – and I am pleased to say that all were treated to a marvellous service.

“The traditional Bible readings were impressively delivered by pupils of all ages and by senior staff. We also enjoyed the more modern musical pieces and arrangements, as well as the classic carols sung by the congregation.”

After the organ voluntaries – played by Year 8’s Zach Fernandes, Noah Morley, of Year 10, and Joel Swedensky, of Year 12 – the service began in darkness as the introit was sung. The traditional solo descant for the first verse of Once in Royal David’s City gave way to the Barbershop group singing verses two and three; it was only on verse four that the congregation joined in and the church returned to light, creating a dramatic opening to the service.

The other congregational carols were: O come, all ye faithful; God rest you merry, gentlemen; While shepherds watched their flocks by night; Hark! The herald angels sing. The Chamber Choir and Barbershop pieces were by composers from John Rutter to Peter Cornelius.

“All the music was strong, but the upper voices of the Chamber Choir singing New Boy Born, with flutes and piano, and the whole Chamber Choir’s powerful and percussive Nova Nova really stood out, the Headmaster added.

The service culminated in the first-ever congregational signing of And Be It Known – the new School anthem commissioned from international composer Howard Goodall for the School’s thanksgiving service in Westminster Abbey on the day of the 450th anniversary, 24th March 2023. The Year 7 boys had been taught the anniversary anthem in advance of the carol service.

“The boys joined in with gusto and were in great voice, helping to make the congregational singing of the anthem a success.

“Overall, the service was innovative and really quite a spectacle, in the best sense – an entirely fitting end to a wonderful anniversary year.”

The service was attended by: Martin Russell, Representative Deputy Lieutenant for the London Borough of Barnet, and the Deputy Mayor of the Borough Cllr Tony Vourou, accompanied by the Deputy Mayoress, Mrs Caroline Vourou.

The service was preceded by a reception for the Headmaster’s guests at Tudor Hall – the home of the School from soon after its founding in 1573 to 1932, when it moved to its present location.

QE’s helping hand at Christmas

Amid all the end-of-term busyness, QE pupils and staff still found time to remember people less fortunate themselves, both locally and further afield.

The QE Barbershop group gave their first-ever performance of a full programme of music in a fundraising concert in central London for the Family Action charity.

And today, the last day of term, donations that the boys have brought in for Chipping Barnet Foodbank and Homeless Action in Barnet, two charities regularly supported by the School, were handed over.

A group of senior pupils headed out in a School minibus, accompanied by Assistant Head (Pupil Involvement) Crispin Bonham-Carter and QE Flourish Tutor Celia Wallace.

Mr Bonham-Carter said: “Care for others and philanthropy are an important element of the QE ethos. Furthermore, our Barnet community is important to us, so it was good to support the two local charities, as in previous years, while also supporting Family Action, too.

“Last year, Chipping Barnet Foodbank fed more than 5,000 people. The need is, therefore, great, and I am delighted that as a School we have been able to play our part in helping out.”

The delivery of the donations came at the end of a run-up to Christmas that has included boys tucking into a traditional Christmas dinner – with vegetarian options available.

The Barbershop group’s invitation to the Family Action concert at St James’s Clerkenwell (Farringdon) came from Adam Hope, who teaches piano and organ at QE.

The boys have previously sung individual pieces of music, but never a whole programme.

Their repertoire for the concert included both familiar carols and lesser-known festive pieces:

  • Once in Royal David’s City (Henry John Gauntlett, 1805-1876)
  • Ding Dong Merrily on High (Trad. Arr. Joe Johnson)
  • Away in a Manger (Trad. Arr. Reginald Jacques)
  • The Three Kings (Peter Cornelius, 1824-1874) (with Arjun Patel, of Year 13, as the soloist)
  • We Need a Little Christmas from Mame (Jerry Herman 1931-2019, Arr. Dave Briner)
Diverse musical excellence and well-earned awards at Winter Concert

The Winter Concert brought entertainment across an array of genres with just one common factor – the high degree of musicianship on display.

The Shearly Hall was packed to the rafters and saw hundreds of boys participating in 15 different ensembles, watched by parents and other family members, staff, friends of the School and VIP guests.

Alongside the customary presentation of Junior and Senior Music Colours, Headmaster Neil Enright presented the Music department’s new Music Bars – normally to be given to boys who have already achieved colours, but have continued to excel.

Mr Enright said: “Our Winter Concert was aptly named – some families had to de-ice their cars before heading home afterwards – but was held in a very warm atmosphere and was a great success.

“There was super music, supported by excellent production from our sound, lighting and stage crews, both pupils and the professionals from School Stage. These concerts are a big team effort – the culmination of much hard work from the boys and the Music department, but also other parts of the Elizabethan community, such as: the site team; parent volunteers from The Friends of Queen Elizabeth’s providing hospitality, and our pupil volunteers – my thanks go to them all.

“There really were no weak links musically, although the Indian Ensemble stood out, with excellent vocal performances from Year 7’s Param Jani in their opening piece and Rishi Watsalya in their second.

“The evening was balanced with dynamic numbers: the Senior Winds’ playing of Stephenson’s Rocket (conducted by current University of Connecticut intern Mason Armstrong) and the School Orchestra’s Beethoven in the first half, and the two Guns N’ Roses pieces in the second – Sweet Child o’ Mine from the Electric Guitar Ensemble and the Jazz Band’s rendition of Welcome to the Jungle.”

The concert was attended by the Worshipful The Mayor of the London Borough of Barnet, Councillor Nagus Narenthira – who, Mr Enright said, has been a great supporter of the School, as Deputy Mayor and now as the borough’s 58th Mayor.

The Music colours went to boys who have shown outstanding commitment to music at QE and displayed musical excellence.

The presentation of the bars was to two sixth-formers:

  • Jason Tao, of Year 12: his citation praised his leadership and his being a superb role model for younger students;
  • Indrajit Datta, of Year 13, who, exceptionally, received his Senior Colours and bar at the same time, in view of his recent sterling efforts on the Music technology side of the Music department’s work. He is currently in the midst of producing a recording of the School’s specially commissioned 450th anniversary anthem, And Be It Known.

“The way in which the boys so enthusiastically cheered the recognition of their peers through the colours and bars presentations was heart-warming – evidence of the genuine support they give one another,” Mr Enright said.

  • Click on the thumbnail images below to scroll through photos from the concert.


How did we get here? The Arabella magazine explores 450th anniversary theme

QE’s pupil-run arts magazine, The Arabella, looks both to the past and the future in a special edition for the School’s 450th anniversary year.

The 44-page publication features 26 pieces of poetry, prose, and art, many of them inspired by its anniversary-related theme, How did we get here? The approach, looking both backward and forward, mirrors that of the School’s anniversary celebrations on Founder’s Day which included a display of the School’s 1573 Royal Charter alongside the burying of a time capsule intended for the pupils of 2073, when QE will mark its 500th anniversary. Work on the magazine began last academic year, but it has only now been published.

Assistant Head (Pupil Involvement) Crispin Bonham-Carter said: “The ninth edition of The Arabella has been worth the wait: with its expanded contents and an eclectic mix of topics and styles, it is a great demonstration of the fruits of free-thinking scholarship and academic curiosity.”

The magazine includes contributions from boys throughout the School, although boys from the current Years 8 and 9 feature especially heavily.

In his introduction, one of the editors, Chanakya Seetharam, of Year 12, addresses his fellow QE pupils: “Just as the [450th anniversary thanksgiving] service at Westminster Abbey in the Spring Term so well captured, this is as much cause to look back with an inquisitive eye into the past as to look forward to the future. It is this spirit of investigation that is the kernel of this edition, and which was so well taken up by you….

“You are what keeps The Arabella alive. This is a magazine by you and for you. We hope you will find all of the work here thoroughly insightful, interesting, and enjoyable, and here’s to a great next edition!”

The poetry section is highly varied, with contributions ranging from Year 9 boy Yingqiao Zhao’s piece about the moon – which is in the shape of a crescent and has key words picked out in different colours – to the nine-stanza rhyming French poem, La Mort de L’Ancien, composed by Year 13’s Aayush Backory. The poetry section closes with Nikhil Francine, of Year 9, addressing the anniversary directly with a poem entitled Thriving from Ancient Roots – the School’s slogan for the anniversary year.

The creative writing pages included Year 9 pupil Raaghav Dhanasekaran predicting a dystopian future amid huge hurricanes caused by climate change.

The music writing section on the other hand looks mostly to the past, from Nikhil Francine’s essay on A brief history of song to Moneshan Rathaparan and Eshwara Masina, both of Year 8, jointly exploring The Enduring Influence of Classical and Baroque Music on Contemporary Culture.

Year 12 student Akheel Kale, from the editorial team, praises the quality of Year 13 pupil Ashish Yeruva’s essay on Justice for Ukraine: How to Put Russian Leaders on Trial Using International Law. Ashish’s contribution had inspired the team to open a current affairs section in the magazine and to invite further such submissions in the future, Akheel says.

Similarly, the magazine has a new section on Science, featuring Year 10 boy Zain Syed’s submission of an extensive flow chart setting out A Natural History of the Earth.

Interspersed throughout The Arabella are artworks exploring themes including Expressive Heads, Distortion and Identity; Dystopian Landscape; and Art Inspired by Music. Shown in this news story, from top to bottom, are:

  • Expressive Heads, Distortion and Identity, by Sushan Naresh, Year 10 (main image)
  • Dystopian Landscape, by Krishav Sundar Rajan, Year 9
  • Art Inspired by Music, by Galinghan Balamurugan, Year 8
  • Expressive Heads, Distortion and Identity, by Ayush Saha, Year 10

The magazine is named after Arabella Stuart, a descendant of Henry VII and sixth in line to the throne, who fell foul of King James I when in 1610 she secretly married another potential heir to the throne, William Seymore. Her husband was sent to the Tower of London, while Arabella was committed to the care of the Bishop of Durham, but fell ill in Barnet en route. She stayed for some months at the home of QE Governor Thomas Conyers, her spiritual needs attended to by another Governor, Rev Matthias Milward, who was subsequently appointed Master (Headmaster) of the School.

  • For anyone with access to the School’s eQE portal, The Arabella is available to read here.
Performing in Paris: a successful summer Music tour

QE musicians of all ages gave performances at iconic venues in the French capital during a summer Music department tour.

Fifty-two boys from Years 8­­–13 combined concerts with seeing the sights of Paris during their five-day tour.

Their performances included one at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, one at Disneyland Paris and a bandstand concert in the Jardin du Luxembourg.

Director of Music Ruth Partington said: “This was overwhelmingly a very successful and most enjoyable trip, and a great way for our musicians to celebrate QE’s 450th anniversary year.

“The boys performed well, savouring this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

This trip was open to all pupils in Year 8 and above participating in two or more regularly rehearsing ensembles and to all boys taking GCSE or A-level Music, provided they were in at least one such ensemble.

Travelling by coach and ferry, the boys’ first visit was to the Chocolaterie Beussent in Normandy, where they were told on a guided tour how chocolate is made from cocoa beans and learned the history of the small company.

After arriving in Paris and a rehearsal on their first evening, day two saw the boys deliver a 20-minute concert at Disneyland Paris’s Videopolis Theatre, after which they had the chance to let their hair down. Their one-day tickets gave access to both Disneyland and the Walt Disney Studios.

On day three, the party walked up the steep hill to visit Sacré Coeur and enjoy the panoramic views across Paris.

Near the cathedral, they had the opportunity to stroll the narrow streets of Montmartre and see artists at work and selling their paintings.

On the same busy day, they went on a walking tour, seeing the restoration work going on at Notre Dame following the disastrous fire and visiting the Louvre, Place de la Concorde, the Tuileries and the Champs-Élysées.

They then gave their bandstand performance in the Jardin du Luxembourg – an historic attraction the origins of which can be dated back to 1612, when Marie de’ Medici, the widow of King Henry IV, constructed the Luxembourg Palace as her new residence.

The day’s activities concluded with ascending the Tour Montparnasse skyscraper.

Day four brought a cruise on the Seine, a visit to Versailles Palace and Gardens and a one-hour concert at the American Church of Paris on the Quai d’Orsay.

On the final day, they climbed the Arc de Triomphe before setting off home, where they experienced a four-hour delay – the only hitch in the packed programme.

Among the participants was Nikhil Mark, a pupil from Year 11, who said: “The experience was surreal: I absolutely loved it.”

Formal but fun: saying farewell to QE’s leavers

QE’s Valediction event for the Class of 2023 saw the 450th anniversary year cohort gather with their parents for an afternoon celebration.

There were prizes for some, while the contribution of all the leavers – or graduands – was celebrated during an occasion in Shearly Hall that featured speeches and presentations, followed by afternoon tea on Staplyton Field.

The guest speaker was Sahil Handa (OE 2009–2016), the first-ever Elizabethan to take up a place at Harvard in the US, who has already blazed a trail in several different fields, from the arts to founding IT startups.

As befitting an event which embraced a sense of fun alongside its formal aspects, the afternoon’s musical interludes looked to the lighter side: staff reportedly enjoyed processing in to the accompaniment of Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, performed by the QE Jazz Lounge.

Headmaster Neil Enright thanked parents for their “huge support, both moral and financial, over the years” and urged both them and their sons to stay in touch with the School.

He told the boys: “I hope in the years to come that you will come back and see us; tell us about your adventures and careers; and, more importantly, tell those following in your footsteps through the School: that you will show them and their families the great variety of things that an OE can do, and an Elizabethan can be.”

The guest speaker was himself an example of that variety. Currently a Visiting Fellow at The John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Sahil is, among many other things:

  • A writer: he was a founder of Persuasion, a non-profit magazine devoted to liberal values and the defence of free speech
  • An entrepreneur: he has worked on both Typos, a messaging app for creatives and Lines, a messaging app offering verifiable communications in the blockchain-based web3, for which his company has raised over $6.5m in funding
  • A dancer: he ran the QE dance club for four years and lists “dance battles at nightclubs” among his present interests
  • An artist: he was selected for the Royal Academy of Arts’ AttRAct scheme while at QE and still enjoys painting on canvas.

Sahil attended Valediction together with his mother, cousin, friends and his brother, Nikhil Handa (OE 2013–2020). He recalled his first encounter with Deputy Head (Pastoral) David Ryan, who hauled him over the coals after spotting him dancing outside the classroom window to entertain his classmates during afternoon form time. This less-than-auspicious beginning soon turned into a supportive relationship, however, when he became part of Mr Ryan’s English class. “I thought he’d make my life miserable. But to my surprise, it seemed as though he’d forgotten the whole episode entirely. I went on to learn everything from him… Mr Ryan was also the first person who complimented me for being a generalist.”

Sahil spoke of: the trials and tribulations of being a writer – “if I did not write, I would not be true to myself”; the importance of confidence and of learning from rejection, and of “maintaining and strengthening the relationships that matter”.

In conclusion, he alluded to the former TV show, Takashi’s Castle. “There’s an activity where contestants try to skip across stones on a lake, avoiding falling into the sea. I like to imagine. It’s how I feel when I’m dancing: like melodies are being created for my feet. You are now leaving a place of constraints and the world will create stones for you, if only you skip. Write the email. Ask the question. Start the conversation. Say the tough thing. Make the difficult choice. Take a posture towards the world that makes you look up and laugh at its wonder. It’ll be as though somebody is creating stones for you to walk on.”

A large majority of Year 13 students attended. All received a set of QE cufflinks, while the prizewinners also received a copy of former Headmaster Dr John Marincowitz’s new history of the School, Queen Elizabeth’s School: 1573–2023. Among the speakers was Theo Mama-Kahn, School Captain 2022, who was one of the leavers. He gave a vote of thanks.

During tea afterwards, there were performances by four forms who shone recently in an inter-House music competition.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Enright said: “We began a Valediction event both because we wanted to say farewell formally as a School, but also to give people an opportunity to say their own goodbyes: the chats and well-wishing out on the field, with boys, families and staff thanking each other for all they have done over the past seven years, was an important element of the occasion.

“The Class of 2023 have distinguished themselves not only as a highly able cohort, but one characterised by kindness and positivity. They have served as great ambassadors to those younger in the School and I look forward to them continuing this record within our alumni community.”