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King Edward’s wins the Independent School of the Year Award for Performing Arts

King Edward’s wins the Independent School of the Year Award for Performing Arts

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12 December 2018

King Edward’s School, Bath has won the 2018 Independent School of Year Award for the Performing Arts in the inaugural Independent School of the Year Awards, organised by the Independent School Parent Magazine.  100s of schools from across the country entered the awards, which seek to highlight the quality of pupil experience in Independent Schools.

Award winners were chosen by a judging panel chaired by Dr Helen Wright (former Vice-Chair of the Independent Schools Council, President of the Girls’ Schools Associate and a trained inspector with the UK Independent Schools Inspectorate).

A vibrant and inclusive performing arts department is at the heart of life at King Edward’s.  The Music department, led by Rupert Drury and a department comprising three permanent staff and 17 instrumental teachers, provides around 50 performance opportunities each year and approximately 450 instrumental or vocal lessons take place each week, alongside 28 different ensembles gathering to rehearse.  The School’s vocal partnership with Bath Abbey also continues to thrive with KES providing the largest proportion of boy choristers to the Abbey.

The School’s unique side-by-side partnership with Bath Philharmonia is now in its sixth year and provides unrivalled opportunities for instrumental musicians.  The annual Gala Concert, which sees KES musicians perform alongside the professional orchestra is the undoubted highlight of the musical year, however, the year-long partnership programme also includes workshops, masterclasses and mentoring programmes designed to develop, stretch and inspire our musicians.  As part of this partnership, 2016 BBC Young Musician of the Year finalist, saxophonist, Jess Gillam visited KES last Spring to undertake a series of workshops and masterclasses with KES musicians as well as outreach events with local Bath primary schools.

Commenting on the Music programme at KES, Director of Music, Rupert Drury, said: “King Edward’s is fortunate in having wonderfully dynamic, talented and enthusiastic pupils and it has been our underlying aim to provide them with an inspiring music programme that includes projects and experiences that develop a rich understanding of music, through working alongside industry professionals, in addition to opportunities provided by our own outstanding team of performing Specialist Music Staff.

“We are very much indebted to our instrumental partners, Bath Philharmonia; our Choral partners, Bath Abbey and our composing partners New Music South West, and of course to the vision and support for the Arts by the Headmaster, Martin Boden, and the School as a whole.”

Mr Drury added: “We are always looking to improve our experiences and programme to nurture our musicians, but great music and passionate performing, led by enthusiastic instrumentalists, composers and singers is what we believe in. It’s what we as teachers were inspired by when we were young, and it is essential we pass on this creative legacy to our pupils.”

KES Drama is equally innovative in its ambitions for pupils.  A flourishing LAMDA programme, led by Dani Tamblyn and Petra Schofield, has quadrupled in size since launch and in the 2017-2018 exams 69% of KES LAMDA students received a Distinction for their Acting Exam and 31% gained a Merit - quite outstanding results by our young actors. 

Over the summer the School made its second excursion to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to perform Hansel and Gretel – based on a Kneehigh Theatre adaptation of a Carl Grose script – and in November our Junior School took to the stage at the egg theatre, Bath to perform Romeo & Juliet, as part of the world’s largest youth drama festival organised by the Shakespeare Schools Foundation.

Last year saw one of our most ambitious drama projects to date, with the production of POP! The Musical.  Not just content with starring in musicals, KES pupils and staff created one themselves (and recorded a soundtrack!), using as their premise, a best-selling teen title written by our very own English teacher, Catherine Bruton, who adapted her book into a musical exclusively for King Edward’s. Show Director was Sarah Bird, Head of Drama, and the School’s Resident Composer, Mark Boden, wrote the score.  This unique project was further created in collaboration with pupils who were involved in song-writing, work-shopping, performing, editing, documenting, stage managing and – of course – starring in the show!  Described as ‘Billy Elliott meets The X Factor via Shameless’, POP! The Musical tackled emotive issues, such as poverty, immigration and fragmented families, topped by a layered critique of the cynical world of reality TV.

External recognition of KES pupils’ prowess in performing arts continues, with KES actors, actresses and musicians regularly among the honours for Bath Young Musician of the Year and Bath Young Actor of the Year.  Onward destinations for KES alumni include the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama and the Central School of Speech & Drama in London, and at last count our Drama department know, or are in contact with roughly 150 Old Edwardians who are currently working or training in careers as diverse as acting, film and media, opera, film-making, stage design, directing, comedy and writing.

New for 2019 – Highlights from the Spring Performing Arts Calendar at King Edward’s School

Over the last week, audience-goers have been treated to the latest production by KES Drama, a hilarious, but heart-breaking production of Bertolt Brecht’s masterpiece, The Caucasian Chalk Circle. Next term it’s the turn of the Lower School production, in what promises to be an exciting and physical adaptation of C.S Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and Wardrobe

Equal delights are promised by the Music department as it commences its annual Spring Music Festival in January.  The Festival includes the following performances and masterclasses.

  • 17 January - Bath Philharmonia Masterclass No. 3 – Percussion
  • 22 January -  KES Holburne Soloists’ Chamber Concert at the Holburne Museum.  Tickets available from the Holburne Museum box office.
  • 12 February - Spring Colours Concert
  • 14 February - Bath Philharmonia Masterclass No. 4 – Brass
  • 14 February - KES Charity Concert featuring KES Soul
  • 28 February - Spring Lunchtime Recital
  • 3 March – KES hosts the New Music South West Composers Workshop
  • 7 March - Mid-Somerset Festival Competition: Chamber Music Classes featuring KES Baroque Group, KES Cello Club and KES String Quartet. Sunday
  • 10 March -  KES Senior Orchestra and Bath Philharmonia Side-by-Side Project orchestral workshops.
  • 15 March - Mid-Somerset Festival Competition: Bands and Orchestral Classes featuring KES Senior Orchestra, KES Brass and KES Wind.
  • 19 March - The Bath Orchestral Gala Concert VI: A Night at the Movies – The Guildhall, Bath
  • 2 April - KES Choral Extravaganza Concert

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