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Youngsters blow up a storm at Christ Church
All involved in Sunday’s wonderful Jubilee concert at Christ Church by the county’s young musicians — and, of course, principally the youngsters themselves — deserve our heartiest thanks for such a spiffing evening.
“What a pity the Queen isn’t here to enjoy it,” I thought to myself, as the Oxfordshire Youth Big Band blew up a storm amid the sun-dappled stonework of the college’s Tom Quad. (For once Mother Nature was holding back on her own fierce weather; there had been enough of that on the two previous nights.) But then, during the interval, I learned that Her Majesty actually would be enjoying music from the county’s young players the very next day. Over chilled white wine in the Deanery garden, Charles Lloyd, the Big Band’s director (and saxophonist — that’s him in action on the right) told me that 50 local musicians, aged 16 to 18, would be playing at a Jubilee garden party at Henley attended by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.
Present were the Oxfordshire Youth Flute Choir, the Oxfordshire Youth Brass Ensemble and the six-strong Oxfordshire Jazz Collective who number the county’s Lord Lieutenant Tim Stevenson (pictured with them below) among their biggest fans.
It fell to the brass ensemble, under conductor Mike Skitt, to open proceedings on Sunday with the National Anthem. A later highlight was Stuart Johnson’s A Circus Suite, which supplied us with all the excitement of the Big Top.
Next came the Big Band, who really let rip with a succession of (mainly) up-tempo numbers that more than once had members of the audience dancing on the grass with something of the fleet-footedness of nearby Mercury.
The facility in this department of the boys of the Christ Church Cathedral Choir, who we were later to admire in their more traditional role, was commented on by composer, television presenter and Christ Church alumnus Howard Goodall during one of his stints at the microphone.
Another of his observations concerned the huge value, as a confidence booster in later life, of singing in a choir from as young an age as possible. Once a fresh-faced chorister myself, and never known as a shrinking violet throughout my adult years, I can only concur with his remark.
Howard invited youngsters to consider whether they would like to see themselves following in the footsteps of vocalist (and drummer) Jake Morter, who had earlier led the Big Band in a stirring performance of I’ve Got the World on a String (which he probably has). Their answer is not hard to guess at.
Singers from six county primary schools, who have worked with the Christ Church boys, performed next, and were followed by the choristers themselves, under director Dr Stephen Darlington.
After the interval came the Oxfordshire County Youth Orchestra, conducted by John Traill. Their uplifting programme included Henry Wood’s Fantasia on British Sea Songs and Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No.1, which brought us all to our feet for Land of Hope and Glory — not once but three times.