Music is an integral part of life at St Helen’s. The school day begins with individual performances in morning assembly or with Chapel Choir leading a chapel service and throughout the day, there is always the sound of girls practising and ensembles rehearsing. Live music is a feature of so many school events and our aim is that everyone who would like to get involved can do so, whatever their level or experience.
St Helen’s boasts many fine instrumentalists and we have a number of orchestras (including a string orchestra), so that there should be a group for everyone, regardless of their standard. Large age ranges are quite normal in our orchestras and they create a wonderful opportunity to make friends outside of your own year group. Many girls are also involved in orchestras run by the county as well as Thames Vale and we are regularly represented at national level.
Wind and Brass Ensembles
The woodwind and brass departments have many of their own bands and ensembles, ranging from small chamber groups to large symphonic wind bands. We also have a number of successful Jazz ensembles, such as the Big Band who perform at our dedicated Jazz evening and Jazz afternoon.
At St Helen’s we offer both auditioning and non-auditioning choirs so that everyone who wishes to sing can be involved, although reliability and loyalty are important to every choir! There are choirs for all ages from Year 5 upwards and our choirs tackle a variety of repertoire, from sacred choral to contemporary popular music. There is a joint choral society with Abingdon School, with whom music theatre productions also take place, such as the recent production of Anything Goes and there is also musical theatre lunchtime club.
Duos, Trios, Quartets and Quintets rehearse weekly with music staff guidance and the school’s chamber music programme has grown tremendously in recent years. We hold an annual chamber music concert, and our chamber groups make appearances at a variety of occasions in and out of school and have achieved great success at local, regional and national level in festivals such as the Pro Corda national competition.
Music tours are regularly undertaken with recent destinations including Belgium (2006), Tuscany (2008), Germany (2010) and Barcelona (2013). In July 2015, members of Chapel Choir and Cantores travelled to Paris along with a number of instrumentalists, and gave concert performances to great acclaim at Disneyland, the church of La Madeleine and the cathedral of Notre Dame.
There is a huge number and range of activities for girls of all ages and abilities and concerts take place throughout the school year ranging from informal tea time concerts to recital competitions and formal evening concerts. Rehearsals take place before school, at lunchtime and after school and details can be found in Beyond.