MUSIC: RGS is alive with the sound of music

Music is the lifeblood of a school, says director of music EDWARD SEYMOUR, who is encouraging pupils to sing every day

WHEN I was a pupil, my headmaster said music was the lifeblood of a school. Later in life, an inspirational colleague said: “Where there is a good school, you’ll find great music.” Music does offer a significant insight into the ethos of a school. A healthy co-curricular timetable shows learning isn’t exclusive to the classroom and that the skills and experiences we accrue outside lessons form an important part of a full and varied education. Healthy uptake for these activities shows a desire to learn and work together. Rarely do we find musicians working in solitude, they want to share music, feel the thrill when music clicks, and enjoy a fantastic group performance together. However, students are busy, and in a school packed with societies and sports teams, finding and keeping co-curricular musicians is not without its challenges.

Having a broad variety of musical opportunities allows us to cast our nets wide in encouraging pupils to participate in music. Student-led ensembles also allow students to take possession of, and responsibility for, their music and they act as ambassadors for the department, encouraging peers and younger pupils. In maintaining numbers, I believe that promoting high standards is the secret. Pupils rise to challenges. Whilst the fun and familiar are comfortable to the new or inexperienced student, as they progress the excitement and achievement felt in performing that really demanding piece, after so much hard work, has a lasting positive impact on pupils’ music-making.

But what about the school as a whole? Daily singing in many schools has steadily decreased over the years. To many, singing in assembly may now be an alien concept. So, we perhaps look elsewhere to reignite communal school singing. Many schools have house competitions and Ripon Grammar School’s inaugural House Singing Competition is not a revolutionary idea. But, like other house events, this is something which really does gets under the school’s skin and becomes a talking point. In recent trials in house assemblies there has certainly been a positive buzz and renditions of songs in the corridors as pupils pour out of the hall. The lifeblood flows…

RGS Man Choir performing at Holy Trinity Church in Ripon

Students from all five RGS choirs in rehearsal

The chamber choir in Ripon Cathedral

Mr Seymour and members of the chamber choir with their debut CD of Christmas carols