Our pupils have enjoyed some very special experiences this month, with events at school that have broadened cultural horizons, that have inspired and that have entertained! Last Wednesday, for example, it was a packed day. If our Main Hall could speak, it would attest to this! After accommodating fifty of our Year 7 and 8 pupils who completed the National Maths Challenge, it was swiftly rearranged to welcome the whole of Year 7, plus our reading club members from other year groups, who participated in a fantastic workshop led by the author Lesley Parr (‘Where the River Takes Us’). The pupils were really interested to hear from this author and then had the opportunity to purchase her book from our pop-up branch of Waterstones and to have it signed. Waterstones are now a familiar and established addition to school events, having been welcomed to each author talk that we have run in addition to our Festival of Literature last summer. As ever, we are most grateful to Steve and his team for their warmth, their encouragement of our pupils and their support to them in shaping their reading choices.
Following yet another hasty rearrangement of the Hall – and indeed chairs being brought from all available classrooms – it was time to welcome the exceptional BBC National Orchestra of Wales! All of our Year 7 and 8 pupils listened to a spellbinding programme, which began with Grieg’s ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’ from Peer Gynt. From its barely audible and tentative beginning to its frantic and dramatic ending, the pupils were hooked. The concert, introduced by the presenter Lucy Drever and conducted by Chris Stark, included Bologne’s beautiful 'Allegro' from Symphony No.1 and Anna Clyne’s ‘Night Ferry’, which filled the room with its resounding and crashing percussion, intended to be a “sonic portrait of voyages; voyages within nature and of physical, mental and emotional states.” The well-known 'Habanera' from Bizet’s Carmen captivated the audience with its Cuban dance rhythm and the orchestra kept with a dance theme for the finale: the riotous and vibrant 'Mambo' from Bernstein’s West Side Story. We are very grateful indeed to the talented musicians, to the BBC NOW education officers and to the orchestra’s support team (the logistics of bringing the orchestra’s musicians and all of their equipment to schools are not to be underestimated!). This was truly a memorable experience – one that our pupils will doubtless recall many years after they have left Bishop Vaughan!
The week ended with yet another BBC National Orchestra of Wales event yesterday – this time a live-streamed concert: ‘Connecting the Dots.’ The pieces of music for this, as for the live event earlier in the week, were drawn from their ‘Ten Pieces’ repertoire, which you can listen to online by clicking on the links to the individual pieces within this blog, to the whole programme here, and to the separate programmes for key stage three and key stage four. You can also follow the orchestra on social media and on their website. As I said to our pupils at the end of the live concert, music is an exceptional example of the way in which our gifts and talents can be nurtured not only for personal fulfilment but to bring joy to others. Experienced live, it is even more special and it is one of our commitments in our pupil entitlement charter that our pupils will indeed have the experience of live music in performance whilst they are with us here in Bishop Vaughan. There are also further opportunities still for our pupils to experience the magic of this particular orchestra: the education team, who were very complimentary of our amazing pupils, have offered to make free tickets available to our pupils for their regular concerts at Swansea’s Brangwyn Hall. Further details about how to access these will be shared closer to each concert date.
We are truly proud, then, of our pupils who – through these experiences alongside their spiritual and academic development – are certainly growing to be ‘learned and wise’ as the Catholic pupil profile advocates, as well as ‘ambitious and creative’ as encouraged by the Curriculum for Wales.
Perhaps we can now allow the Main Hall to rest and ‘power down’ after its very busy week! Wishing our pupils and their families a sunny and relaxing Bank Holiday weekend and a blessed month of May, dedicated to Our Lady. We entrust, in particular, the intentions and the flourishing of those of our learners about to take examinations to her care.