Herefordshire youngsters star at Wales Millennium Arts Centre concert to celebrate school's 400th anniversary

FOUR young county musicians and singers had the chance of a lifetime when they took to the stage of the Wales Millennium Centre for a gala concert celebrating their school's 400th anniversary.

Alto saxophonist Matthew Forder from Tupsley, treble Edward Sleath from Kingstone, tenor Christian Loizou and bass Toby Upham, both from Hereford, joined more than 550 performers to raise the roof of the world renowned Cardiff venue, which has been graced by the likes of opera stars Bryn Terfel and Kiri Te Kanawa.

The quartet are pupils at Monmouth School, which was founded by Wye Valley-born merchant William Jones in 1614 and is celebrating four centuries of educational excellence with a year-long series of events.

Pupils, families, staff and invited guests took over Wales's premier performing arts venue for a sell-out concert in the 1,897-seat Donald Gordon Theatre to mark the milestone.

Bass singer Toby said: "It was amazing to stand on the stage where such a great singer as Bryn Terfel has performed and sing at such a fantastic venue."

Edward added: "It was a once in a lifetime experience to perform there, I'll never forget it. And the concert brought home the fact that our school has such a great history - it's amazing to think it goes back 400 years."

Highlights of the memorable night included world-renowned conductor and former Haberdashers' Monmouth School for Girls' pupil, Professor Jane Glover CBE, taking the baton for a rousing performance of Mendelssohn's Fingal's Cave by the Haberdashers' Monmouth Schools' Symphony Orchestra, while Old Monmothian, Wales and British Lions cap and 'TV voice of the Six Nations' Eddie Butler stirred the hearts with a rendition of Shakespeare's most rousing poetry from the legendary son of Monmouth, Henry V, set to music by William Walton.??

Pupils from Monmouth School joined singers and musicians from its four sister and brother schools in the Haberdashers Monmouth Schools' group, as well as youngsters from feeder preparatory schools the Elms, Colwall, and St John's, Chepstow.

"This was a magnificent opportunity for the musicians and singers of the Haberdashers' Monmouth Schools to display their talents in the capital of Wales in a truly world-class venue and an auditorium which inspired all the performers, demonstrating how well young people respond when you set them high standards and give them extraordinary opportunities. It was a wonderful way to celebrate 400 years of existence," said Monmouth School Headmaster Dr Steven Connors.

The concert also featured performances from the Haberdashers' Monmouth Symphonic Winds, The Senior Strings who performed Elgar's Serenade for Strings, before the joint orchestra struck up William Walton's score from Laurence Olivier's Henry V with words from Shakespeare's play performed by former Wales rugby captain Eddie Butler, who astounded the audience with his memorised rendition of some of the Bard's most inspiring prose.

As well as attending the sister school, Professor Jane Glover has strong links with Monmouth School, having grown up in the school grounds as daughter of Robert Glover, headmaster from 1959 to 1977.??With recent conducting highlights including The Magic Flute in New York, and the world premiere of Peter Maxwell Davies's Kommilitonen! at the Royal Academy of Music, she returned to Wales to lead the orchestra in Mendelssohn's concert overture The Hebrides, and brought a new dimension to its playing as she obtained a truly lyrical performance from the young musicians.

The concert finale literally pushed the boat out with a concert suite performance of Broadway classic Showboat, featuring the combined musicians and voices of Monmouth School, HMSG, the Elms and St John's on the Hill.

Pupils, parents, staff and governors will just have time to catch their breath before the next major anniversary event, a trip to St Paul's Cathedral in London on March 19, the day James I signed the Letters Patent in 1614. A giant fleet of 32 coaches will transport some 1,500 people to a service of thanksgiving for the schools' foundation at the historical place of worship of the Haberdashers.


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