The College enjoys an outstanding national reputation for the excellence and variety of its music.
First to Third Year - Lower School Music
All pupils in the Lower Years of the College enjoy a creative and practical based curriculum. They are given regular opportunities to perform as a class, in small groups and as soloists. Pupils are actively encouraged to take the initiative in terms of leading/conducting their performances and we aim to foster a sense of autonomy and confidence in their music-making. Composition is an essential part of the KS3 curriculum and we aim to include more works written by pupils in both formal and informal concerts. In 2018, minimalist compositions for instrumental ensemble have been performed by the school orchestra alongside works by internationally acclaimed composers. The Schemes of Work are regularly updated and aim to reflect the works performed by the College’s ensembles (musicals in the first year alongside ‘Joseph’; Mozart’s setting of sacred and secular texts alongside the ‘Solemn Vespers of a Confessor’ concert); as a department, we believe in the importance of permeability between the academic and performance aspects of music. As such, we aim to facilitate greater crossover between the classroom and the stage and to encourage pupils and their families to participate in and attend events as part of their ‘learning journey’.
Fourth Year to Sixth Form - GCSE and A Level
The balanced curriculum at KS3 aims to encourage uptake at GCSE, where performance, composition and listening skills are further developed. The areas of study offered by Edexcel at GCSE allow the pupils to explore instrumental, vocal, film, world and stage music repertoires and emphasis is placed on individual creativity and written appraisal skills. The A Level specification continues analysis of set works, listening and appraising of both familiar and unfamiliar works and demands good essay writing skills. The current AQA syllabus extends from Baroque concertos to music for Media and Musicals.
With three full time staff (Richard Quesnel - Director of Music, William Mason and Kathryn Wardil), a part time music administrator and team of 26 visiting instrumental staff, the department is able to support, encourage and inspire our pupils at all levels.
The department offers both music scholarships and exhibitions. These are awarded to pupils who demonstrate considerable ability and potential, and who are dedicated to developing their musical skills and personality. They are expected to participate in several ensembles, to perform as soloists and to play an active role as ambassadors within the department. As part of our commitment to draw together the strands of academic endeavour and performance, participants in ensembles are always given ‘project sheets’ for every major performance. These documents outline the context of works performed as well as clear learning objectives specific to the programme. Scholars are expected to archive and compile these sheets to constitute their portfolio – which could be an indispensable resource when applying to higher education.
Performance opportunities for pupils are numerous and varied, with a large number of ensembles rehearsing on a weekly basis many of which are coached by specialist tutors. Pupils are encouraged to participate in an ensemble as soon as they are able to, and many run their own groups and rehearsals. The department strongly believes in fostering the diversity of musical repertoires and is keen to promote performances of world music (using the College’s samba batucada, steel drum orchestra or gamelan), rock, pop and jazz alongside the canon of Western classical music.
To support this, the College has an extensive concert schedule over the course of the year, from the Lunchtime Live Concert Series, Inter-House Music Competitions, workshops and masterclasses with musicians such as Bob Chilcott to regular major choral and orchestral concerts. Recent repertoire has included Handel’s Messiah, Bach’s St John Passion, Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, Poulenc’s Gloria and Michael Haydn’s Requiem with professional musicians.
Performing new music is also a feature of the department’s current development. First performances of student works will be regularly programmed and the Director of Music often composes work for performance by College ensembles and the whole school in chapel services. To mark its 150th anniversary, the College has commissioned a libretto from internationally acclaimed librettist Ben Kaye, set to music by Richard Quesnel, and composed specifically to showcase all levels of musical ability amongst pupils. The oratorio "Dragonsong" was performed in St George's Hanover Square in January 2020.
The music department strongly supports the College Chaplaincy in providing choral and instrumental music for assemblies, masses and special services such as the annual sung Memorial Requiem, Advent Carol Service and Lenten meditations. The choirs regularly sing services in Catholic and Anglican cathedrals and churches around the country, including Vespers at Westminster Cathedral.
We are also very keen to collaborate with other departments within the College. Various initiatives are in place or are being developed: providing music for the A level art exhibition; illustrating history, politics and RE lessons about subjects such as the Tudor period, the Reformation and the English Civil War; collaborating with the drama department for incidental music to plays (Animal Farm, The Tempest) and collaborating on musicals (Oliver, The Sound of Music and the upcoming My Fair Lady.
Around a quarter of St George's College pupils undertake private instrumental study and several also study at the Junior Departments of London Conservatoires. The standard of music-making in College means that some pupils have participated in National Youth Jazz Orchestra, National Schools Symphony Orchestra, London School's Symphony Orchestra and Surrey County Youth Orchestra, the National Youth and National Children’s Orchestras.
In the past years pupils have gained scholarships and places to the Royal College of Music, Royal Academy of Music, Royal Northern College of Music, and Trinity Laban. Several have been awarded Organ and Choral Scholarships to Oxford and Cambridge University as well as to UK cathedrals. The majority of Sixth Form music pupils go onto to further study music, with most studying in Russell Group universities.
Touring is a key feature of our musicians’ development programme and recent destinations include trips to France and Italy, as well as visits to Belgium and California to maintain and strengthen links with other Josephite schools.
The College’s Chamber Choir achieved double national success, winning the BBC Songs of Praise Senior School Choir of the Year competition and the Barnardo’s National Choir Competition 2012.
The College is proud to have hosted the MMA music conference for teachers in May 2014, during which guest speakers such as Suzi Digby and Edward Higginbottom held sessions for music teachers from all around the country.