Review: Petersfield Music Festival Youth Concerts

This year was another resounding success for Petersfield’s young musicians, with over 330 singers and instrumentalists coming together from the local area to collaborate in two concert performances on Monday 12th and Wednesday 16th March.

There was a great breadth to the programme showcasing a wide genre of musical styles from the combined choirs.  The concerts started with ‘Songs for Peace’, three rounds skilfully handled by conductor Ben Harlan, who really drew out of the performers the different atmospheres created by each song.  O Lovely Peace featured a beautiful duet from Harry Hetherington and Sage Bidwell, and In Dangerous Times closed the set with a rousing anthem like quality.  The choir were accompanied by instrumentalists from Dunhurst Prep School.

One of the highlights for many of the junior/preparatory school-aged children is the opportunity to watch the senior school instrumental ensembles.  The Combined Schools Wind Band gave incredibly rhythmic and energetic performances of the theme tunes from Mission Impossible and The Avengers.  Directed by Robert Peck and Sue Riggs, this large group of musicians were extremely secure and produced a powerful performance.  Later in the programme, the Combined Schools Jazz Band gave explosive performances of Birdland and the medley Hard to Handle. The audience was treated to some fantastic saxophone and trumpet solos and the band’s professionalism and commitment clearly shone through, due to directors Helen Purchase and Natalie Voller.

A complete change of atmosphere was created as Samantha Wood conducted ‘Music from Jamaica’, giving the Combined Schools Choir a laid-back reggae feel as they were ably supported by a band from TPS.  Martha Fletcher gave strong vocal solos and the whole set allowed the audience to enjoy the enthusiasm and relaxed, upbeat performance that the children gave.

Congratulations to Ben Coles and Thomas Baynes on their winning compositions performed in Monday night’s concert organised by the Michael Hurd Memorial Fund.  Ben Coles’ song Truth and a Lie was extremely well crafted and was well balanced with imaginative lyrics and a great vocal delivery.  Thomas Baynes’ composition Morning, for violin (Megan Bishop) and piano (Matteo Lewis) used a wide range of harmonic colours and really explored its musical material in a thoughtful and emotional way.

On Wednesday evening PASSO (Petersfield Area Schools String Orchestra gave highly engaging performances of Con Moto, The Legend of Deadman’s Cove and Rock Solid.  The orchestra was extremely together and they played with real energy and enthusiasm, a testament to the assured direction of Sue Bint.  It was encouraging to see such a wide variety of string players in the local area and the quality of sound which they produce when brought together.

The evenings ended with the Combined School Choir singing songs for the football world cup.  The wide range of styles from rock to African and Latin American percussion rhythms ended the evening in a joyous way.  Ed Williamson deftly led the Combined School Choir and accompanying band and it was great to see the auditorium and performers come together in waving their arms triumphantly during We are the Champions.

With such a large age-range of children, the Youth Concerts are just as much about inspiring our young performers and their continued exploration of music-making as it is about showcasing their talents to the audience.  Many congratulations to all our young musicians and their teachers for coming together for this special event.

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