The Winter Wonderland 2015.
On 12th December the morning was icy. Bitter air infused the picturesque village of Goodworth Clatford but that didn’t deter the team from Storm Dynamics Music School. They had an hour to turn the Village Club into the venue for the Winter Wonderland and this meant stringing up miles of tinsel and Christmas lights and putting out nearly 80 chairs.
The first students began to arrive at 9.30 and only moments later the pleasing cacophony of instruments warming up began to ring through the hall. Soon though, we discovered a problem; there were not enough chairs! Fortunately Steve Alan, the club caretaker had shown us where the reserve seating was kept and the parents of the students were only too happy to help us bring them in. One of the reasons the club was selected as the new concert venue was for its large hall, and we had filled it.
This is the first year Storm Dynamics has held a concert at the Village Club and so the high stage came as a surprise to most students. As the concert began compere Russell Nash and school founder Jo Carr ascended the steps. The proudly welcomed students old and new to the biggest concert Storm Dynamics had ever undertaken. It was to be a full and varied programme featuring a number of musical ‘firsts’ for both the school and the performers.
One of the major changes to Storm Dynamics this year is the partnership with Hatherden C of E Primary School. Since September Jo had been going into the school to give lessons and run the recorder club and these students were asked if they would like to participate in the Winter Wonderland. The most enthusiastic response came from the recorder club who were the first to take to the stage. Cadence Ormsby, Olivia Beard, Katie Vasey, Aisha Abdullah and Charlotte Scott performed the Christmas Limbo and Boogie shoes with gusto and even managed to get the audience to participate.
This was followed by Lucy Coleman who has had a grade total of three lessons before deciding she was brave enough to try a public concert, she played All the Five, a set-up piece designed to introduce new players to the piano.
Megan Robinson then produced a first for Storm Dynamics by playing We Three Kings on the viola. Although viola is not an instrument offered by the school we were only too happy to offer her the opportunity of playing her second instrument in public. The concert series was designed to give our students a platform for public performance and this year we gladly opened that up to their other instruments.
CJ Fabrigaras joined the school in the spring last year and so this was her second concert. Although she was surprised by the size of the Winter Wonderland she still managed a wonderful performance of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer on the piano.
Our newest student, Cara Zanchi, went next playing Fuzzy Wuzzy, the story of a bear who lost his fur. This was her first ever piano concert and she even managed to not look nervous – although she assures us she was!
Amy Henry’s confidence on the piano was grown tenfold over the past year. She decided to challenge herself by performing two pieces, Little Donkey, which she had memorised and Winter. Winter is the first song she has performed which uses both hand simultaneously. Well done Amy.
Paul West is always a favourite at the concerts as no one knows what he is going to do next! Already a multi-instrumentalist Paul had performed on Clarinet, Piano and Recorder at the previous concert but he had yet another surprise in store for the festive audience – the tuba. Paul played a stunning version of O Little Town of Bethlehem accompanied by Jo on the piano.
Next up we have one of our most determined players. Last Christmas Sandy Ledwidge could not make a noise from the flute and had never read music. By the time we reached the Winter Wonderland 2015 she had achieved a distinction for her Grade 1 and was embarking on her second concert performance. Sandy played Coventry Carol, Still, Still, Still and See Amid the Winter Snow.
Phoebe Matten had decided to play both The Holy and the Ivy and the Sans Day Carol on the flute but on hearing The Holy and the Ivy flute duet she decided to play that version instead. This is a brave step for Phoebe, who has only just reached secondary school. The performance was wonderfully smooth, and so Storm Dynamics had its flute group of the event.
Sophie Henry had been keen to play in the Summer Blockbuster concert along with her sister Amy, but, unfortunately, this had clashed with a ballet recital. She got her chance at the Winter Wonderland, playing Away in a Manager on the piano. Sophie was the first student to confirm her song choice for the concert, saying that Away in a Manger was the first hymn she had learnt on the clarinet and would like to make it the first on the piano as well.
Pianist Aaron Austen went next. A few months before the concert he had offered up a surprise of his own; he would like to try accompanying and since accompanying someone on the piano is very different to playing a piano solo Jo offered to play the flute for him, as this was an instrument she had relatively little performing experience on. The pair chose In the Bleak Midwinter and, although bumpy in places, the performance was very well received. Aaron hopes to accompany again at the next summer concert.
Rebecca Ledwidge rounded off the first half with O Holy Night accompanied by Jo on the piano and a version of Vivaldi’s Winter. Rebecca had recently taken her Grade 5 flute exam and was waiting eagerly for the results, but she wouldn’t have to wait long as the presentation of the graded certificates was next.
We had a large group entering for grades in the Winter 2014 session and we’re pleased to announce the following:
We also announced the result of our sponsored practicathon, in which students practiced to raise money for Clic Sargent; a charity which offers support to children with cancer and they’re families. All together we raised a fantastic £250 and the student who raised the most was Robyn Grace.
After a short intermission which included numerous cups of tea and coffee and a huge variety of cake (all made by the students) we got straight back into playing.
We began with Megan Robinson who has been experimenting with jazz rhythms on her flute and so provide us with a wonderful version of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.
Francesca Martindale is one of our standout young pianists. She enjoys her music so much that on the weekends she holds her own concerts for her family, showcasing what she has been working on all week. Francesca played the ever popular Silent Night.
We welcomed Laura Wilson onto stage next. Laura is one of our few electronic keyboard players which means she learns how to play both melody lines and chords which she uses to trigger off the backing track on the keyboard. Laura played an up-tempo version of We Wish You a Merry Christmas.
Paul West returned to the stage next. Not only had he learned the tuba and worked for two graded exams in recent weeks, he had also found time to learn Patapan on the piano and The Christmas Song (better known as Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) on the clarinet.
Robyn Grace is never one to aim low at concerts and, as she did last year, she created on her flute, a medley of three well known Christmas songs; Once in Royal David’s City, Deck the Halls and I Saw Three Ships.
Harry Coleman is the last of the students from Hatherden Primary School. He is working towards his Grade 1 piano exam and had worried that his song Calypso Joe would not be Christmassy enough for the concert. However, although we are clearly celebrating Christmas at the Winter Wonderland, one of the goals for the concert series was to give students a chance to air their pieces in public before an examination. One hearing this Harry decided to be brave and give it a go and he produced a flawless performance on the day.
Hannah Ledwidge was still riding her from getting her clarinet Grade 2 result when she bounced onto stage for her two songs. Hannah had chosen Frosty the Snowman and Hark the Herald Angels Sing and she played the latter which orchestral backing. To date she is the only student to do this at a concert. Great job Hannah.
To round off our concert of musical firsts we had the first group to be created by Storm Dynamics; the Woodwind Belles. The Woodwind Belles are a flute trio made up of Rebecca Ledwidge, Sandy Ledwidge and Jo Carr. In 2015 the group will start performing publically but the girls were very pleased to make their debut at the Winter Wonderland. They played the Vespa Carol and O Come All Ye Faithful, which was particularly enjoyed by the recorder group. Many of those young girls are now looking to see which instrument they can learn after the recorder and for most the flute seems like an obvious choice.
Our final student was Aaron Austen. Aaron had waited patiently since arriving early to help set up the concert but now was the time to publicly perform, for the first time, the pieces he would be entering for his Piano Grade 3 exam. He played Wiosna and the Blue Sky Blues and both went perfectly.
Lead Tutor Jo Carr was the last to play and this year she was also the only saxophone. She played Sleigh Ride, with orchestral backing and was surprised to hear afterwards that many people thought the version she had chosen was skilfully fast. Jo said it was simply one she enjoyed playing.
To say goodbye to a fantastic year for Storm Dynamics, Russell invited the audience to join in singing Jingle Bells which Jo played the piano. On the last beat of the song the crowd cheered and two large confetti cannons fired off covering the hall in colour, much to the amusement of the younger students.
There was time before the raffle for Russell to make the most important thanks of all; to the students, without whom the concert series would not be possible.
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