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

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.