On November 9th, Bancroft’s School showcased extraordinary musical talent in an exceptional and striking concert where, not only pupils of the school, but parents, singers from The Crofton singers and external professional musicians too, performed the ‘The Armed Man’ by Karl Jenkins, a Welsh composer. It was something new, unique and utterly sensational. 

‘The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace’ consists of a series of compositions, based on the Roman Catholic Mass and using extracts from The Ordinary of the Mass. The text sung by the choir includes words from other religious sources, such as the Bible and the Mahabharata, with each piece of the album series representing a significant historical moment in time, for instance, World War I and Hiroshima. This effectively promoted a fitting mood in preparation for Remembrance Day in two days’ time. ‘The Armed Man’ conveys the increasing threat of war and intermingles this with instants of reflection and positivity, portraying the idea that the menace or war and even death can be overcome. Arisht Bothra, the lead percussionists, stated, ‘Every movement required me to play differently to match the contrasting moods which made the entire performance very enjoyable to both play in and listen to. From playing the snare drum to the bass drum, each movement was a different story and I thought that everybody did a phenomenal job in telling this story.’ 

Julia Whitbread, the Head of the Music Department, conducted the orchestra rehearsals which greatly assisted pupils in performing to their highest standard with her guidance bringing out the greatest in the pupils. Her weekly choir rehearsals also provided regular practice which enabled the singers to perform to the best of their abilities, enhancing their confidence and potential. This resulted in the concert being overall spectacular, an opinion approved by both performers and audience members. Sonia Sagoo, a vocal soloist within the concert, said, ‘The event was highly anticipated by both staff and students - I am delighted that the long hours of practice have been worth it.’  

The addition of both vocal and instrumental soloists added another impressive dimension to the performance and was successful in highlighting specific skill amongst the students. The incorporation of professional instrumentalists augmented the quality of the concert further; Matthew Pinto, a bassoon soloist, mentioned, ‘it was a privilege to work with so many talented musicians.’ However, everybody who took part must be congratulated, since, from the commitment to the responsibility of producing a meritorious event, each musician’s contribution held significant importance. Clare Grimsell, a parent performing in the concert, expressed her view as she stated, ‘It was an amazing experience and because there were people performing who weren’t from the school, such as myself, it felt like a fantastic opportunity for both us and the students.’ Her daughter, Martha Grimsell, the lead cellist and a soloist, agreed and further demonstrated her opinion as she told us, ‘The work Mrs Whitbread put in was remarkable and definitely paid off as both the performers and the audience left the hall with a smile on their face.’  

The greatest recognition of all must go out to Julia Whitbread who organised the event, taught and conducted both the orchestra and choir and made this performance so very special. She commented, ‘bringing ‘The Armed Man together was definitely a highlight of my teaching career with it being a hugely memorable and rewarding experience for both the performers and I.’ The audience, pupil and staff are all counting down the days until Bancroft’s School displays their gift for music in their next concert. 

Sarika Patel