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Challenges of COVID restrictions saw the 2021 Music Showcase date and venue rescheduled several times, so it was a great thrill to finally be able to offer it in our own DY Hall on 23 September to a live audience. And what a concert it was!

21 December 2021

Head of Music Ms Felicity Davies devised an inspirational theme, ‘Celebration of Traditions Old and New’, that captured exactly what Pembroke is all about. Pembroke values tradition deeply but equally it encourages change.

We need innovation as much as our traditions to challenge us to see things differently. This is no more apparent than in Pembroke Music, which has a long history and rich tradition in repertoire, in the history of professional partnerships with first-class musicians and in its ever-evolving ensemble program. But equally it is also forging a path that reflects the innovations evident in new 21st-century global music. All of this was on show at this year’s Showcase. According to Ms Davies in her opening address, the aim, by honouring the concept of both old and new, was to pay homage to tradition in a range of folk melodies woven through the evening and in the presentation of time-honoured works, but also to present innovative connections between old and new musical traditions in new works and arrangements as well as establish a few new traditions of our own.

In a powerful demonstration of the central theme the night began with the stunning performance of Lion City presented by the combined Chinese and String Orchestras, bringing the Chinese erhu and Indonesian gamelan together with more familiar violins, viola and cellos to create music from deep and long Eastern and Western musical traditions in an exciting new fusion. Lion City, originally a strings work, was arranged exclusively for this performance by Ms Liu Yang and Conductor and Head of Strings Mr Lester Wong, expressly to include the Chinese Orchestra. This opening extravaganza set the tone of tradition married with innovation that continued to grow as the night went on.

Highlights of the night came in the powerful string performances by the Symphony Orchestra and the final massed performance. Vorspiel: Allegro moderato from Violin Concerto no. 1 in G minor by Max Bruch, performed by the Pembroke Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Lester Wong with violin solo by Rohan Bhattacharjya. It was a triumph, demonstrating the depth and commitment of this fine group of young musicians and the respect they hold for their outstanding conductor and the exceptional musicianship of their lead violinist. The second being the explosive final performance of the Pembroke combined ensembles of Symphony Orchestra, Intermediate Strings, Wind Ensemble, Percussion Ensemble and Choir, conducted masterfully by Head of Music Felicity Davies. They performed an original work, Dhilba Guuranda-Innes National Park, composed by Artist in Residence Mr Julian Ferraretto with Year 9 Music Studies students in direct response to their experience on Year 9 camps. The performance was a tour de force, capturing the myriad of experiences of swimming, relaxing on the beach and camping. There were even references to Pembroke’s own hot chocolate recipe. I hope that there will be another occasion when this piece might be performed—Pembroke Middle School students should hear it.

Another highlight was the pervading contribution of guest artists Mark Ferguson on piano, Julian Ferraretto on violin and Kyrie Anderson on drums and percussion. Their own music was truly masterful and characterised by wit and sheer enjoyment of making music, no less evident than when Julian played the saw. It was also apparent as, throughout the night, they offered support to students and ensembles as player/accompanists. Our students are fortunate indeed to have these opportunities to work with professional artists.

There was a slick professionalism about the concert, a confidence that comes from thorough organisation and careful preparation, and a real buoyancy that reflected the enjoyment and pride that every participant felt while performing. Congratulations go to Felicity Davies for having the deep musical knowledge and vision to imagine an exciting future for Pembroke Music, the ability to bring her staff on board and inspire them to work together and with her in pursuit of shared goals, and the commitment to persist through lockdowns, cancelled rehearsals and rescheduled performances to give our Music students exciting opportunities.

The 2021 Pembroke Showcase was a remarkable concert. It felt different. Something has shifted in Pembroke Music and those privileged to be there felt the change. Perhaps it was the sheer excitement of being back in a concert hall with a live audience; perhaps the close proximity of the performers in our own theatre; perhaps the appreciation of this vibrant celebration of life in the same space that earlier that day had honoured the passing of one of our own; perhaps the privilege of watching truly great artists in Mark, Kyrie, Julian, Lester, Charmaine and Felicity work with our students; perhaps listening to confident, knowledgeable, kind, generous student leaders; or perhaps watching emerging artists who are dedicated to making great music and working at their craft to improve. No doubt it was a combination of all these things, but the students performing and the audiences watching and listening on this night witnessed the growth in Pembroke Music on this occasion and were excited by the new direction in which it is heading. Felicity Davies’s honest, supportive leadership of her team and clear-sighted vision is making this happen.

Julianne English
Head of Arts