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Music Scholarships, good news!

Music has been much on my mind recently.  Over the last week or so, we have been receiving the results of our boys' Music Scholarship auditions, there has been a lot of good news, and a lot of very happy boys.

I offer my huge congratulations to each of them on their remarkable achievements:

  • Henry F - Scholarship - Sherborne
  • William G- Exhibition - Radley
  • Alex H - Scholarship - Winchester
  • Dominic K - Scholarship - Charterhouse
  • Charles L- Exhibition - Eton
  • Thomas R - Scholarship - Winchester
  • Michael Z - Scholarship - Harrow

And whilst all the scholarship auditions (and outcomes) have occupied our attention for much of this past month, at the same time, other boys have been rehearsing, writing and performing music of all styles and genres. Just this week, I have attended three shows of the Year 3 & 5 play Macbeth the Musical and last night, in Winchester College Chapel, I was part of a congregation who listened to the Quiristers sing a Mass composed by William (Y8); hugely impressive. I have also participated in more than one meeting talking about music with people who really know their stuff; that is inspiring.

Pilgrims’ is of course known for its musical excellence, and one of the remarkable things about our community is that none of the above is hugely surprising.  But it is not all about the headline grabbing music awards, plays and shows, or big concerts; music at Pilgrims’ is, and should be, something for every boy to participate in and enjoy, starting with singing hymns in assembly and enjoying high quality music lessons with Mr du Plessis and Mr Burton, through to individual lessons on instruments, and on to participation in the many choirs and ensembles on offer throughout the week.

Music has value in whatever form it takes, and provides benefit on multiple levels. It is culturally significant; a good base of musical knowledge provides access to a huge library of human endeavour, and a great deal of history too.  Some will argue that music exists ad maiorem dei gloriam – for the greater glory of God, and there is no doubt that music can help us to feel closer to things spiritual (just look at how important music is to so many world religions). Music has the power to pull people together; simply the act of making music together is something that humans have enjoyed since they have been able to make sounds; along with talking, it is one of THE communal activities.

What about the value of music for the individual? Studies in neuroscience suggest that music can enhance brain function in children. Musical activities (such as playing an instrument, singing or just listening to music) stimulate the brain, and this brain workout leads to improved brain structure with the formation of new neural connections. The act of being in an ensemble, a band or a choir teaches the value of working together, being part of a team. Playing music can also make some powerful memories. I was a not very talented percussionist in my youth, but many of my fondest memories from my teenage years involve making music; it is amazing to me how clearly I can remember these experiences, when I seem to have forgotten so much else of what I got up to in those years! And of course it can bring the individual joy, in a way that few activities can.

To quote our Director of Music, "Music is, beyond doubt, a supremely multi-disciplinary activity - it is an Art, a Science, it is Mathematical, it is Historical, it is creative, it is empirical, it is social, it requires individual effort - and to produce it is Physical Education. A list of the individual processes required to get a player through a few bars of music might well be a short essay in itself! Well said, Mr du Plessis.

Finally, music can just be fun. As I mentioned above, I have very much enjoyed watching three nights of the Year 3 and 5 production this week; there was some great acting, and we had some wonderful laughs. However, it is instructive that an encore in this kind of show (as there was last night), is not some replaying of a key scene, but the communal singing of one of the big numbers (last night it was “I’ll be ruling Scotland” – to the tune of “Shotgun”!).

Music has intrinsic value. It is challenging, beneficial, memorable, and it is fun.  I hope the boys at Pilgrims’ appreciate the many musical opportunities they have.

Alistair Duncan
Interim Head

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