The Seven Ages of Man in music and verse

A musical evening celebrating non-musical events made an unusual first concert of the year at QE.

Entitled The Seven Ages of Man and based on Jaques’ speech of that name in As You Like It, the concert marked the School’s own participation in the 2014 celebrations of the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth.

To a very full house in the Shearly Hall, Niam Radia, of Year 13, opened the concert by performing the speech, which famously begins with ‘All the world’s a stage’. The concert featured the School’s Symphony Orchestra playing Tchaikovsky’s Fantasy-Overture, which tells Shakespeare’s ultimate story of impossible love, Romeo and Juliet. The music was also interspersed with a series of dramatic interludes – all passages from the Bard.

""The musical items reflected the seven ages, beginning with infancy and a child on the changing table in Peter Warlock’s Pieds en l’Air, as well as Mozart’s and Brahms’ lullabies.

Director of Music Kieron Howe’s programme notes set out how the music then moved through the ages: “For the younger schoolboy we have cartoons in the Pink Panther Theme and a medley of fantastic melodies from the Disney studios. We look a little older for the lovely piece from The Sound of Music, Sixteen Going on Seventeen. We have a view of the stage of man as lover with the Junior Concert Band’s performance of Adam Duritz’s song Accidentally in Love from Shrek 2. The soldier is referenced in Gustav Holst’s Mars from The Planets Suite again performed by the Junior Concert Band.”

In the second half of the concert, old age was reflected in Benjamin Britten’s canonic arrangement of Old Abram Brown. The Tchaikovsky overture finished with the dramatic chords from the full orchestra becoming a final single long note depicting the death of the two lovers.

""The concert involved a wide range of ensembles, including the Junior and Senior String Orchestras, the Junior Indian Music Ensemble, the Junior Concert Band and the trebles and altos of the Choir.

It ended with three movements from Requiem, the mass for the dead, which was the piece Mozart was writing at the time of his own death in 1791. Fittingly, this final performance featured the full spread of ages at QE, from Year 7 boys through to this year’s Upper Sixth and the staff choir.

The dramatic interludes ranged from well known soliloquys, such ‘To be or not to be’ from Hamlet, performed by Surya Bowyer, of Year 13,  to excerpts from Titus Andronicus, declaimed by Konstantin Nikolov, of Year 11,  and from Henry VI Part II, performed by Alex Wingrave, also of Year 11.