An a-choired-ed taste

Published: 28 Dec 2012 15:301 comment

OVER 450 Dollar Academy pupils took to the Usher Hall stage for their Annual Christmas Concert earlier this month.

And there began to unfold yet another evening which would live long in the memories of those in the audience (and those on stage).

It was an extraordinary event, offering Dollar pupils a densely packed profusion of extraordinary experiences.

The Usher Hall is a stunningly beautiful and acoustically flawless performance venue which regularly plays host to the finest musicians in the world.

The RSNO and the SCO play there regularly, and it is the main venue for the Edinburgh International Festival.

Very few ever earn the privilege of performing at such a world-class venue before an audience of nearly 2000.

That night, Dollar Academy pupils knew what it was to stare out into the velvety, anticipatory silence of a packed hall, so much vaster than the school auditorium.

They experienced the thrill of knowing that an audience of nearly 2000 had come to hear them play. There had been weeks and weeks of preparation and rehearsal and, for each individual on stage, this was the moment.

The Chamber Choir greeted audiences in the Assembly foyer before the main event in the concert hall itself. Their performance of carols would alone have been worth the price of admission.

One member of the audience said, "It was the best value ticket I've ever purchased. I got to hear three concerts for the price of one."

Following the main concert, Dollar Academy Jazz Orchestra performed in the foyer afterward, enabling languorous release, and a casual chance to chat with one's friends and neighbours, after the concert's main events.

The concert itself carried the audience along through an offering of music that ranged from the jolly-traditional, the hauntingly lovely, the innovative and bold. To open, choirs and orchestra (and audience) raced through 'A Christmas Festival' by Leroy Anderson with its delicious, sing-along collage of Christmas carols.

One parent said, "Our children were excited to be a little part of this event and watching there was no doubt that every child shared this sense of pride and exhilaration."

The Prep School Choir, then the Junior School Choir followed with beautiful arrangements of, among others, 'O Come All Ye Faithful', 'Silent Night' and 'Sans Day Carol'. The Forms I and II choir performed a further selection of carols, and then audiences were treated, again, to the stunning virtuosity of the Chamber Choir.

The centrepiece of the evening, however, was the performance of Karl Jenkins' 'Stella Natalis', in which every one of the 455 musicians took part (all five of Dollar Academy's choirs and the First Orchestra).

It was the first UK school performance of this remarkable piece and only the second ever Scottish performance.

As Mr McGonigle (Director of Music) said, "They handled it magnificently well. They performed out of their skins, absolutely out of their skins, in this fantastic venue in our capital city."

An audience member said, "It was an inspiration to see. Now, Christmas has arrived."

The Dollar Academy Music Department and all of its hard-working pupils must be heartily congratulated on an outstanding performance.

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