On Sunday 13 May, Eltham College String students spent a wonderful day at the Blackheath Music Festival.

First performances were in the younger solo categories, and we started with eight energetic Eltham soloists from the Junior School who acquitted themselves with great confidence in a crowded hall. The adjudicator, Lesley Shrigley Jones handed out several medals including to Arthur Girardot for his dramatic performance of Airport, Benjamin Mcloughlin’s characterful playing of the space age effects in Mars and Shiven Shankar’s Elenke, played with gusto. Mr Showell’s daughter Ellie won a silver medal for a highly sensitive rendition of Twinkle Twinkle! We then moved on to two violin quartets who played with great commitment and their clear announcing, excellent rhythm, awareness of ensemble and bowing skills were particularly noted. The large Year 3 Music Alive String Ensemble moved into position and there was a real buzz in the crowded room with parents, siblings and grandparents all there to cheer. They played three pieces with enormous energy and character and the adjudicator was hugely impressed at their discipline in rhythmic attack, a variety of dynamics and sheer skill after only nine months of tuition. It was a great achievement to see the boys playing so confidently and Mr Showell accompanied on the piano with precision as Miss O’Leary conducted. The organisers also commented on how polite and sensible the boys were while waiting beforehand and listening to the adjudicator’s comments and that their stage manner was very calm and controlled despite the crowded conditions. As a result, we have been offered the (bigger) main hall next year and as there was no age limit in this ensemble class, second place was an excellent result when the first prize went to a group that had two adults and several teenagers in it!

In the Senior String Duet Class, Mr Sears delicately accompanied Tyr Formica and Sam Rushton in a beautiful guitar duo by Purcell and their confident and rounded tone was evident to all. Lucas Dastros-Pitei and Alvin Hua played a humorous duo arrangement of The Entertainer with panache and projected tone. However, the winners in this class were Sebastian Watts and Ansh Soni who played a Vivaldi double concerto with excellent commitment to the idiom and ensemble which won them silver medals (with Mr Showell brilliantly playing all of the orchestra parts). Later, we were treated to a varied recital by Sebastian Watts who won first prize in the Under 12 class (stylishly accompanied by Mr Miller).

Lucas and Alvin played again in the solo Grade 6 class, with excellent comments on the warmth and sensitivity of Lucas’ played while Alvin won a medal for his idiomatic Corelli Sonata. The final class of the day was Senior Chamber Music and the adjudicator and audience agreed that the Purcell Piano Trio was spectacular! She singled out Freddy Jiang for his ‘exceptional talent’ and despite playing on a wonderful grand piano, he never once overpowered the string players. Raphael Geldsetzer and James Young played beautifully and absolutely together with a varied range of colours and tone and they came across as one instrument. The romantic Brahms B major trio flowed forward with minute attention to detail while keeping the overall architecture and shape of the phrases intact. Lesley Shrigley Jones said it was an emotional account from refined musicians whose quality of listening and watching each other was of the highest calibre. She was so exuberant in her praise, she forgot to announce that they had actually won! Thankfully, medals arrived and a gold one was handed to each performer. It was a great end to a fantastic day.

Written by: Miss J O’Leary, Head of Strings