Friday, 15th March 2019
I was very interested to sit in on the recording session which took place in Exeter College Chapel this week. The Worcester Choir was making a CD and so they were using the chapel in order to do the recording. The building, modelled on the breath-taking Sainte – Chapelle in Paris, was a perfect place to undertake this task. The acoustic is just right and there was little external noise, unlike at Worcester where often the services are punctuated by horns and the roaring of engines (often, incidentally, adding unusual tones to the music inside the building.) The boys were surrounded by microphones and were clustered into a tight–knit group so as to concentrate their sound. As the process continued, a disembodied voice would appear in a speaker which would give instructions about the delivery of phrases or of unwanted sounds that had been picked up. In the 45 minutes which I saw, the choir managed to produce about two minutes of music. What impressed me about this was the extraordinary focus upon getting it just right. Each little pause had to be of the right length, each phrase had to be perfectly balanced. In essence, the standards were extraordinarily high. I was so impressed by the commitment of both the director, Mr Allery, and of the disembodied voice to producing a recording of such polish that I have resolved to insert a similar disembodied voice into my own head to ensure that I too take such an exacting approach to the tasks that face me – please don’t examine this letter too closely; I have only just resolved to do this! It reminded me that we should really pay great attention to our consciences, to our inner voices, which remind us to always strive to do things as well as possible, and I will ensure that this is an approach that we should all take at School. In general terms of course, if something is worth doing and spending time on, it’s worth doing as well as possible.
It was wonderful to watch the Pre-Prep concert earlier this week. It was like the world in miniature. Tiny little instruments were carried excitedly onto the stage, and performances given with great gusto. Those using the piano hauled themselves onto the piano stool and sat facing the mountainous black instrument, their tiny fingers forcing out bijou gems of sound. As ever, the concert finished with all the boys singing. The process started with a warm up – we all sprung into a state of wakefulness – followed by the haunting singing of a lullaby which sent us straight into a state of stupor. It really was a wonderful event – so inspiring to see such joy and musical talent being nurtured so early in life.
On Tuesday a large number of school parents assembled in the McKenna Room of Christ Church, just at the top of the breath-taking staircase leading to the Great Hall. Following a convivial drinks reception, we divided up into five groups and were taken on a tour of Tom Quad and its environs. The weather was cold and the sun had set, but seeing these exquisite architectural spaces in this light was a memorable sight; the vast buildings stretching up into the dark sky, the wind whipping around the pinnacles as a moon, skirted by clouds, popped in and out of sight. But for my money, the highlight of the tour was when we walked through an unassuming door which gave access to the inside of Tom Tower, which, unusually, we had been given access to. The inside was surprisingly large given how it looks from the outside. And to one side there was a slightly rickety looking wooden spiral staircase of 111 steps which we climbed up in small groups. At the top, hanging from a sturdy wooden structure, was Great Tom itself, a massive six ton bell, which in its deepthroated way, rings out across the City every hour. The bell is sounded by being hit by a huge hammer and one of the groups had to scuttle down the stairs so as to avoid the ringing of the nine o’clock curfew. We stood below as the bell began to sound and, though the noise was muffled by the ceiling, the whole chamber seemed to shake. It was an unforgettable experience. As ever, I was reminded of how fortunate we are to be associated with a school which gives us such memorable experiences. I was thrilled to see so many parents attending. Next term we have arranged for a tour of the gardens with the Head Gardener John James. I hope you will be able to come.
I am enjoying my walks through to Oriel Square every morning to pick up boys following the rising of the bollard. I was walking a boy in Reception back and as we crossed Peckwater Quad, I asked him how his morning had been so far. “I’ve been listening to the news,” he responded. “What’s happening?” I asked. “Well, I think Mrs May needs a new plan now.” He may well be right!