“It’s the big day; it’s Founder’s Day!” – the QE community gathered online to celebrate an illustrious past and look forward to a bright future

“It’s the big day; it’s Founder’s Day!” – the QE community gathered online to celebrate an illustrious past and look forward to a bright future

Queen Elizabeth’s School today celebrated Virtual Founder’s Day 2021 with an internet broadcast that featured a good measure of time-honoured tradition and a generous helping of innovation, all laced with a healthy dash of fun.

Highlights of the YouTube Premiere programme that went live at 12 o’clock included a Founder’s Day weekend Showstopper Bake challenge introduced by TV celebrity Mel Giedroyc, former BBC presenter of the Great British Bake Off.

Introduced by Headmaster Neil Enright, the half-hour programme included the annual Roll Call, the reading of the School Chronicle and elements of the traditional Founder’s Day church service. Mr Enright reminded viewers that fundraising remains a focus of the day, with more than £22,000 raised in last year’s lockdown Founder’s Day to support the education of boys at the School.

Donations can be made via the dedicated Friends of Queen Elizabeth’s Founder’s Day JustGiving page.

With QE’s Music School now nearing completion and funds required to equip it to the highest standards, there was a strong musical theme in the programme: this included the first-ever performances from the new building, with young musicians donning hard hats and ‘hi-vis’ vests over their uniforms.

When the outbreak of the pandemic forced last year’s Founder’s Day online, all hoped it would be a one-off. That was not to be, but although this year’s event was again virtual, there was now great cause for optimism, said Mr Enright.

“We are now in a very different position to 12 months ago: the School is open, classrooms are buzzing with activity, many clubs and societies are meeting, and our lives are moving, step by step, closer to normality,” he said.

“I take great comfort that during the unprecedented difficulties and uncertainties of the past 16 months, the School has not just coped, but thrived and even, in the words of our Chronicle, ‘flourished’.”

The School could look back with pride, but also forward to many “rapidly approaching” exciting developments, such as the Music School, which is due to open in the autumn of this year, Mr Enright added.

The video included a specially recorded segment from Mel Giedroyc, supplementing her first video announcement of the QE Founder’s Day Showstopper Bake challenge earlier in the month. In today’s film, in her own inimitable style, she announced to the “QE massif” that it was time for them to take up their sieves, whisks, graters and bowls: “It’s the big day; it’s Founder’s Day…We would love you, please, to create the most incredible, outrageous, flamboyant, delicious, beautiful Showstopper Bake – and remember, you have got to be sponsored to do it: that is how we raise the dough to raise the dough. See what I did there!”

Anyone making a ‘bake’ – which can be a cake, biscuits, bread or other dish – is invited to send Mel a photo of it via news@qebarnet.co.uk for her to judge. Bakes with a musical and/or a QE theme will gain extra credit.

The YouTube Premiere also featured a special appearance by musician and improvisor extraordinaire ‘Harry the Piano’, recorded at the Coach House Piano Showroom on the King’s Road in Chelsea. The School’s new £75,000 grand piano, which will grace the Music School’s Recital Hall, is coming from Coach House.

After appealing for viewers to give generously to Founder’s Day and lauding yesterday’s Pianoathon at the School, Harry deftly played the Great British Bake Off TV theme in five very different musical styles – Mozart, Chopin, samba, rock band Queen and Debussy.

Other musical elements of the video included the National Anthem in the opening section performed by the Founder’s Day Chamber Choir. They were recorded in Chipping Barnet Parish Church, where the Founder’s Day Thanksgiving Service takes place in normal years. Also filmed in the church was a reading of the School Prayer by 2021 School Captain Siddhant Kansal and the singing of the Founder’s Day hymn, Now Thank We All Our God.

There were three performances from the Music School construction site:

  •  Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, by the Foundation Day Saxophone Ensemble
  • Oblivion, by the Year 8 Trio
  • Prelude, Gavotte and Waltz from Shostakovich’s Five Pieces for Two Violins and Piano, by the Year 9 Trio.

The video’s closing credits were played over the Year 9 Trio’s performance. These included thanks to the sponsors and supporters of Founder’s Day – companies and organisations which are also listed in a specially produced brochure.

The reading of the Roll Call took place, as tradition dictates, in front of the Main Building, but because of the pandemic, only the School Captain, the House Captains and the Year 7 forms from each of the six Houses appeared, with the boys responding to the School Captain’s call with the words ‘Ad sumus’ (‘Here we are’).

The School Chronicle – a formally written summary of the School’s history – was recorded in various locations and featured a number of speakers, beginning with former Headmaster John Marincowitz (1999–2011) and including Governors, staff and pupils.

Year 9 pupil Zeyvuan Wu read the latest addition to the Chronicle – “And be it known that during the Covid-19 pandemic, which twice caused all the schools in the land to close their doors to most pupils, the challenges were faced with ingenuity and resolve” – before Mr Enright concluded the reading with the customary blessing upon the School: “May it always flourish!”

Other highlights of the Founder’s Day week have included a special event to celebrate QE Collections – a new online facility offering free access to a wide range of digitised archives relating to the School and local Barnet area – and the opening of advance pre-sale orders for Dr Marincowitz’s new definitive history of the School, which is due to go on sale during QE’s 450th anniversary year in 2023.