Any doubts that Scotch's musicians were going to match the high standard set by last year's Foundation Day concert were dispelled by about 7.47 pm on August 29.
Following the concert's opening-Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man-the Symphonic Wind presented two challenging works, which quite equalled the standard they had set themselves in 1996's all 20th century programme. Samuel Barber's A Little Night and Day Music demonstrated the ensemble's ability to handle a wide range of instrumental textures and dynamics and Johan de Meij's Gandalf was only marginally less challenging. The commitment of this ensemble and its conductor Andrew Mott to presenting 'difficult' contemporary music has been a highlight of Scotch music in the last few years.
The Junior School choir, conducted this year by Andrew Bainbridge, took the stage next and presented an impressively varied repertoire ranging from Schubert lied to nonsense songs, via A Bug for all Seasons!
Perhaps the biggest crowd reaction of the night was reserved for the Show Band, conducted in typically 'cool' fashion by Roger Schmidli. Scotch's own Harry Connick Jr, Matt Gurry crooned effectively on It had to be You and then drummer Peter Harris and trumpeter David Sheludko cut loose on Louis Prima's Sing Sing Sing.
The mood changed with the String Orchestra, presenting another contemporary work, Eugenie Teychenné's Haiku, conducted by the composer, who is a visiting teacher of violin in the music school. Once again, the performance of this work, inspired by the austerity of Japanese nature poetry, displayed the music school's commitment to challenging its musicians and avoiding the stereotypical programs that can so often bedevil school concerts.
The first half of the program closed with two concerto movements: Kenneth Nguyen, AMusA, playing the finale from Bruch's popular Violin Concerto No 1, and Oliver Ng, LMusA, playing the third movement from Grieg's Piano Concerto in A minor. Both soloists played with great skill and confidence-but mention should also be made of the contribution of the 'rank and file' of orchestral musicians to the success of the pieces.
The ever-popular pipe band opened the second half with a medley including a reel in calypso rhythm and a drum salute composed for the occasion by Drum Sergeant Matthew Lowe and Leading Drummer Peter Harris. The impact of the drumming was greatly accentuated by the lighting design-indeed, the creative use of lighting to enhance the mood created by the music was a great innovation in this year's concert.
After the pipe band, the Latin Doctors presented their valedictory performance of Tito Puente's Mambo Gozon and Moises Simon and Stan Kenton's The Peanut Vendor. The Doctors have been an enormously popular feature of Scotch's music scene over the last five years, and their presentation of these two infectious latin jazz pieces was a great way to 'go out'.
The Senior Choir presented the spiritual Deep River and two light-hearted but still demanding pieces composed three and a half centuries apart. The choir goes from strength to strength and the quality of the singing this year was excellent-especially from the tenor line, which is always difficult to maintain in a schoolboy choir.
Director of Music has been waiting for organ virtuoso Jai Darvall AMusA to hit Year 12, so he could program part of the Saint-Saëns organ symphony. Jai and the Symphony Orchestra handled this difficult yet witty piece extraordinarily well, given the technical difficulties of balancing organ and orchestra.
The program concluded with the school singing excerpts from Cats and Les Miserables, accompanied by the Symphony Orchestra. The boys handled these pieces well, although the standard was, perhaps, not quite up to last year's impressive Carmina Burana.
Captain of Music David Sheludko matched his predecessors' imagination in his conducting of Goodnight Ladies to finish the concert, including extracts from Star Wars and the revelation of a lamé cardinal gold and blue disco suit at the end. Rumours that the costume was sourced from John Ferguson's wardrobe are almost certainly false.
Mr Nick Browne
Scotch College: ABN 86 852 826 445 ACN 005 650 395 CRICOS 00624A (Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students)