A couple of years ago I found myself sitting in Great School playing violin in a “family orchestra”.
It was a rather different experience from the last time I'd played violin in public back in 1987, although I was almost certainly sitting in the exact same spot. At that point, I was doing a lot of fiddle playing: music exams, competitions, chamber group, and so on. The orchestra had recently returned from a “tour" to Mönchengladbach and we were very much on top of our game.
But the violin is not kind to those who don’t practice so, winding the clock forward to 2019, I’ve no doubt my contribution to the "family orchestra" was a shambles. I tucked myself in behind my 11-year-old daughter and tried to keep up.
In my day, the music department was led by Steven Orton and Richard Bainbridge, both fine musicians, though many other members of staff got involved. I and former history teacher, John Vick, were recently chatting about singing Barber Shop Quartets on the night train from Leningrad to Moscow during a school trip. Music wasn’t limited to the Department by any means.
John Blatchly’s influence was ever-present of course and Sunday night Chamber Group (even now, known as Chamber “pot” in our household) was at that time held on a Sunday night in the headmaster's sitting room. An invitation to join was considered a great honour. If I wasn’t the first to decline, I suspect I was one of only a few to do so. It was politely explained that it wasn’t optional. And so I bowled up, violin in hand, and loved every minute.
It wasn’t all plain sailing. One Sunday evening, after failing to realise there was a rehearsal, I had to be extracted from The Great White Horse, three sheets to the wind. I was delivered to the Headmaster’s house by my ever-supportive mother. There’s not a lot of musical space in which to hide when playing chamber music and I was struggling to stay upright on my chair. I’m sure it was very entertaining for my peers. However, I was surprised to learn several years later, that Richard Bainbridge had told my mother that Dr. Blatchly had found the whole episode “hilarious”.
I’m very lucky to have a career as a musician – albeit not as a violin player – but I rarely play or sing just for fun. It’s probably the thing I miss most about Ipswich School.
One can never hope to recapture those youthful moments completely, but if there are people out there who’d welcome the opportunity to make a little music then please get in touch. Be it a choir, a chamber orchestra, a jazz band, open-mic nights, or something else entirely, we’d love to hear from any OIs, parents, staff, or friends of Ipswich School who might like to get involved so please do email firstname.lastname@example.org
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