2021 Course and Concert

31 October 2021 - St John's Smith Square, London

Getting Ready for the 2019 Concert Getting Ready for the 2019 Concert

The highlight of our musical year is the annual Orchestra Course, which takes place over the October half-term. This comprises a five-day residential course during which an exciting programme of music will be rehearsed for a concert on the final afternoon. Recent venues have included Symphony Hall in Birmingham, the Barbican and the South Bank Centre in London.

This year's concert will be held at St John's Smith Square on Sunday 31st October 2021. The course will be held during the half-term week, Wednesday 27th October to Sunday 31st October at Dame Alice Owen's School, Potters Bar, Herts.

During the week, students are provided with regular refreshments, a full cooked lunch and high tea. Residential students stay at the well equipped Lincolnsfield Centre nearby and benefit from a cooked dinner and a wide range of organised evening activities.

Fees for the 2021 course: Students who applied for 2020 can carry over their course fees. The course fees for 2021 are to be confirmed.

Applications for 2021 will open early next year. Click on the online application form to apply or see the how to apply page for more information.

Admission is by written application and teacher recommendation. You need to be aged 13-18, Grade 8 standard or above.

Full Programme
  • Leonard Bernstein - Symphonic Dances from West Side Story
  • Darius Milhaud - Scaramouche, Suite for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra with soloist Jess Gillam
  • Dmitri Shostakovich - Symphony No.5 in D minor

We are delighted that we have been able to confirm Jess Gillam for 2021 and so are able to play the programme that was planned for 2020.

Just over 20 years seperates the writing of the three pieces chosen for this year's programme, but they each represent a different style of 20th Century Music.

In West Side Story, Leonard Bernstein fused elements from European musical theatre and American musical comedy to create a new form of modern American Musical. Alongside traditional complex vocal ensembles and the use of a full symphony orchestra, he integrated Jazz and Latin-American dance rhythms. The Musical was premiered in 1957 and following its enormous success, Bernstein composed a set of Symphonic Dances for Orchestra which were first performed 4 years later.

There are no singers in the Symphonic Dances, but the Orchestra captures the emotion of the main characters and the energetic latin rhythms are produced by the large percussion section. You will also notice a number of unusual instruments within the Orchestra such as the Alto Saxophone and Drum Kit.

The second piece in the programme is the Suite for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra - Scaramouche, with guest soloist Jess Gillam. Jess performed at the Last Night of the Proms in 2018, playing this Suite by Darius Milhaud.

Milhaud was one of a group of French composers known as Les Six who were inspired by the music of Eric Satie and combined to write a new, much lighter style of music as a reaction to the heavy German Romanticism of Richard Wagner and the lush Orchestration and Chromaticism of Debussy. This New Classical style has traditional structures and much lighter textures.

Much like Bernstein in America, Milhaud was also heavily influenced by Jazz and Brazilian music and you can hear those influences in this suite. The suite originates from music that Milhaud wrote for a production at the Théâtre Scaramouche and was originally written for Piano Duet. As the Suite became more popular, Milhaud made various arrangements including this one for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra.

The final piece in the 2021 programme is a favourite of the Orchestra although it has not featured since 2002. The Fifth Symphony is probably Shostakovich's best known work and re-established Shostakovich as a popular composer in Stalin's Soviet Union in 1937. The Symphony was written following the withdrawal of his fourth symphony during rehearsals for the first performance. It was considered too modern and not in line with the current ideology. Fearful that he might be imprisoned or killed, Shostakovich returned to a more conservative style. It is said that the audience wept during the final movement of the premiere of the work.