“Musical understanding and maturity” on full display as QE boys reach final of prestigious national competition

“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.