QE concert tour to Durham

Forty-two boys took part in the Music Department’s concert tour to Durham, combining a demanding performance schedule with the opportunity to visit some of the historic city’s famous attractions.

The party also met up with one of the School’s alumni, Emeritus Professor of Classics at Durham University, Peter J Rhodes (OE 1952-1959).

The four-day tour began with a 6.30am departure. “The early start was definitely worthwhile,” said Music teacher Rebecca Lancelot. “It enabled us to settle in to our accommodation and then enjoy lunch beneath the impressive chandeliers of St Chad’s College.”

In the afternoon the boys enjoyed the Durham Miners’ Gala. “They found it a splendid and moving occasion, with marching bands leading new banners into the cathedral at the start of the service. The boys relished the opportunity to sing one of our Founder’s Day hymns, Jerusalem, again, and hear the cathedral choir,” added Miss Lancelot.

""After supper in St Chad's, the choir had the invaluable experience of an intensive rehearsal with the cathedral's Master of the Choristers and Organist, James Lancelot, who is Miss Lancelot’s father. He was appointed in 1985. Prior to this he was successively a chorister of St. Paul's Cathedral, Organ Scholar at King's College, Cambridge, and, for ten years, Sub-Organist of Winchester Cathedral. He studied with Ralph Downes, Gillian Weir and Nicholas Danby.  In addition, Mr Lancelot is much in demand as a recitalist in Britain and abroad. Recent years have seen visits to countries including Holland, Poland, Germany, Denmark, the USA, Russia and Sweden. He is a past president of the Cathedral Organists’ Association and in 2002 became a Lay Canon of Durham Cathedral, also receiving an Honorary Fellowship of the Guild of Church Musicians. He received an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal School of Church Music in 2008.

On day two, the party travelled to the Beamish museum in Stanley, where the boys staged three very well attended performances – one by the choir and strings, and two by the band. The evening was spent aboard Durham's largest vessel, the Prince Bishop, which was making her first outing in seven weeks, having been out of service due to recent flooding.

""“The third day proved to be a busy and challenging one for the boys, but they more than rose to the occasion,” said Miss Lancelot. In the morning, the boys were treated to a tour of the cathedral and those who were involved in just one of two performances taking place later that day also toured the historic castle. “They excelled in a riveting lunchtime concert and an enchanting evensong, both of which were extremely well received.”

The day was rounded off with a barbecue at St Chad's College, which was attended by the boy choristers of Durham Cathedral Choir, with whom the QE chamber choir had performed at evensong.

Also at the barbecue was Professor Rhodes, Durham’s Classics Department’s specialist in Greek history from 1965 to 2005 and Professor of Ancient History from 1983. Since his retirement in 2005 he has been Honorary Professor and Emeritus Professor. He is the author of a number of acknowledged academic books and a contributor to the second edition of the Cambridge Ancient History, and the third and fourth editions of the Oxford Classical Dictionary.

""In the USA, he has been a Junior Fellow of the Center for Hellenic Studies, Washington DC, and a member of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey.  In 2002 he was Langford Family Eminent Scholar at Florida State University. He is a Fellow of the British Academy, where he was vice-chairman of the Classical Antiquity Section 1999-2002 and chairman 2002-5, and is a Foreign Member of the Royal Danish Academy.

Professor Rhodes has since written to the School to say how much he enjoyed the occasion and to send his greetings back to Barnet: “Very many thanks, to you and all your colleagues – for bringing the QE musicians to Durham, to play and sing so well at lunchtime and at evensong, for enabling me to re-establish contacts with my old roots, and for the cufflinks.” The new cufflinks from the school would complement the pair given to him by his housemaster when he left QE in 1959, he said.

The final morning comprised a talk about, and tour of, Durham University with Mr James Randle and Dr Peter Swift. “We felt very privileged to be able to see inside labs in the Physics, Geography and Engineering departments, as well as a brand new lecture theatre,” said Miss Lancelot. The tour ended with a trip to St Mary's College, from where the group could admire the “stunning panoramic view of the cathedral”.

Miss Lancelot concluded that both pupils and staff had enjoyed a wonderful time in Durham. “The boys have performed to a very high standard and rightly received numerous compliments, not only for their musicianship but also for their polite manner. It has been a pleasure for us as staff to take such talented and considerate young men on tour, and we look forward to facilitating similar opportunities in future,” concluded Miss Lancelot.