The Music School plays a vibrant and central role in the life of The Leys, running a wide variety of extra-curricular ensembles in which pupils are actively encouraged to participate.
These include the larger ensembles such as the Chapel Choir, Chamber Choir, Orchestra, Wind Band and String Orchestra; and smaller ensembles including String Quartets, Flute Choir, Jazz Band, Brass Group, Clarinet Group and Guitar Group.
In addition to the academic and extra curricular activities run by the department, a series of lectures and workshops are also arranged annually for the benefit of the pupils. These include an Alexander Technique workshop and a lecture on the psychology of performance given by a visiting university professor. Professional musicians are also invited annually to provide workshops for specific instrumental groups.
The Music School was opened in 2005 by Julian Lloyd Webber, who remains the Music patron of The Leys.
The Recital Hall - with a Steinway Grand piano and Harpsichord - seats 100 and regularly hosts concerts and recitals, as well as being a superb rehearsal space. Concerts include the Lunchtime Live series, the Muriel de Vinney and Elsie Swinton competition finals, and the Music Scholars' concert. Parents are always welcome to attend any of our musical events; - tickets are not usually required, except for the Autumn Concert and Moulton Concert which take place in Great Hall.
The Music School also boasts a large classroom, recording studio, music technology suite, percussion suite, music library and twelve practice rooms. Purpose built, all spaces are acoustically engineered and sound insulated.
Musical events are organised on a regular basis, ranging from the large-scale Autumn and Summer Concerts to the informal Lunchtime Live Concerts, performed either by pupils or by visiting professional musicians. Soloists also have the opportunity to perform in regular Musicans’ Showcases or in the solo instrumental and singing competitions held in the Lent term. These include the Muriel de Vinny and Elsie Swinton competitions.
The termly Unplugged Concerts provide an opportunity to focus on acoustic popular music, and there is sometimes the Rock or 'Plugged' Concert at which bands can perform in Great Hall. Theatrical musicals, such as the recent productions of Anything Goes and Chicago, also take place in Great Hall, showcasing the combined work of the music and drama departments.
The emphasis lies in the enjoyment of making music together within a supportive and encouraging atmosphere.
Choral singing plays an important part of musical life at the school, whether in formal Chapel services or merely for enjoyment. An annual choral workshop takes places at the start of the Autumn Term, led by a prominent choral conductor. Pupils are encouraged to be involved in singing out of school in a variety of ensembles including the National Youth Choir.
The Chapel Choir leads the singing in School Chapel Services throughout the year, normally singing an anthem in addition to either an introit or blessing. The Choir is open to any pupil who enjoys singing. Highlights of the choir year include Remembrance Sunday, the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols at Christmas, and the Leavers’ Service. In addition to the chapel services, the choir also performs at the Autumn and Summer Concerts, while visits to local cathedrals and college chapels to sing evensong ensure that the choir is heard in the wider community.
The Chamber Choir is a smaller choir that is open to students by invitation. The Choir provides music for occasional chapel services, most notably the Confirmation Service, and performs in school concerts as well as carol singing in the build-up to Christmas. Recent repertoire has included Vaughan Williams’ Five Mystical Songs, Shearing’s Songs and Sonnets, and part songs by Stanford.
The School Orchestra has approximately 40 players and rehearses weekly in preparation for the large-scale concerts held in Great Hall or at West Road Concert Hall. Recent repertoire has included Brahms’ 4th Symphony (1st movement), Wieniawski’s Violin Concerto in D Minor and Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony. Players are required to be Grade Five or above on their instrument.
The String Orchestra prepares a wide variety of music to be performed at the larger-scale concerts and frequently links up with the Chapel Choir to provide accompaniment for a major choral work. The Orchestra was honoured to receive some expert guidance from Julian Lloyd Webber in 2010 before sharing a concert with him in the Recital Hall. Recent repertoire has included Symphony No 4 by Boyce and Holst’s St Paul’s Suite.
Wind Band meets weekly and is open to every pupil in the school of Grade 3 or above standard. The Band tackle a wide range of repertoire from large symphonic band works, through Christmas arrangements, to popular song and film medleys. Their two main events of the year are the Autumn and Summer Concerts, where they open the concert with a bang. Recent repertoire has included James Swearingen's Centuria, Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks, Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, and this year will be tackling Leroy Anderson's perennial favourite A Christmas Festival. Currently two pupils from the Wind Band are also members of the National Childrens’ Wind Orchestra.
The Brass Group is open to all brass players and plays a wide variety of music ranging from renaissance antiphony to modern arrangements of popular tunes.
Chamber ensembles currently available to pupils are: string quartets, cello ensemble, guitar ensemble, flute choir and clarinet choir. Each group rehearses weekly in preparation for performing at one of the annual concerts.
The Jazz Band is an option for all brass players and saxophonists, together with rhythm players (drums, keyboards and bass). Styles of jazz performed include funk, swing and big band classics and there are plenty of opportunities for improvisatory solos.
The Music School has rehearsal spaces suitable for rock bands to practice. There is a tradition of 'Unplugged' popular music concerts twice a year, with performances for the lower school in the Recital Hall or Great Hall, and for the upper school in the Sixth Form Club. There is sometimes a 'Plugged' rock concert run in Great Hall, for which full stage lighting and PA is provided.
Music scholars at The Leys play a full and active part in the music-making of the school. There are frequent opportunities for performance, either as a soloist or in the various choirs, orchestras, bands and chamber groups. The Director of Music ensures that each pupil's commitment is appropriate to his or her talent, in consultation with the Housemaster/Housemistress and parents, and care is taken to ensure that time is left for his or her own private practice.
The department takes regular trips for pupils to see operas performed by English National Opera at the Coliseum or concerts given by the London Symphony Orchestra at The Barbican. These are open to all academic musicians and music scholars as well as any pupil who is involved in music-making at the school.
Leys musicians also have the opportunity to perform in local schools and churches and a programme of visits to local venues is an integral part of the school’s musical calendar. Recent Cambridge venues have included Michaelhouse Centre, Little St Mary’s and Emmanuel United Reformed Church. The Chapel Choir regularly sings Choral Evensong at Cambridge Colleges.
The musicians undertake regular tours and recent destinations have included Prague (2009), Liguria and Tuscany (2011). Over 45 Leysian musicians embarked on a spectacular ten-day tour to New York and Boston in the summer of 2013.
Individual tuition is offered on all the main orchestral instruments by a team of over twenty specialist visiting teachers. Saxophone, Percussion (orchestral and kit), Guitar, Bass Guitar, Organ, Harpsichord and Singing lessons are also available in the Music School.
Lessons are arranged on a rota basis for pupils in Years 7-11, so as to avoid missing the same academic lesson regularly. Sixth Form pupils are taught during Private Study periods. We also have theory clinics each week after school on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Associated Board instrumental and theory exams may be taken each term at The Leys. While many pupils are encouraged to take exams, it is understood that for other pupils this may not be the best course of study. Ultimately, our aim is to deliver tuition which is tailored to the individual's needs.