Music at Birkenhead School is lively, varied, and, most importantly, fun! There is an ever-growing range of choirs, bands, orchestras and other ensembles to cater for all tastes and abilities. From our robed Chapel Choir, who sing Choral Evensong every Sunday, to our student-led Ukulele Club, there really is something for everyone! Involvement in co-curricular music-making is strongly encouraged at all ages.
The Music Department has a full staff of instrumental tutors who give individual tuition in a wide variety of instruments to pupils throughout the School. Students joining us from elsewhere are given the opportunity to begin learning an instrument or to continue studying an instrument they have taken up at their previous school. Tuition is available in the following instruments:
A limited number of Music Scholarships are available at Senior School entry level for particularly promising young musicians, and may also be awarded higher up the School. In addition, there is an Organ Scholarship available, usually but not exclusively, at Sixth Form level. For further details please contact the Director of Music. Instrumental Music Awards are also available for those pupils wishing to study ‘shortage’ instruments such as cello, bassoon or horn.
Bands and Orchestras
At present there are three large Senior School ensembles: the Concert Band, the Orchestra and the Big Band. In addition, there is an award-winning Brass Ensemble which is run by our Brass Tutor. Other smaller ensemble groups meet, such as the Saxophone Quartet, Clarinet Ensemble, Trombone Ensemble, two Flute Ensembles, Folk Band, Guitar Ensemble and a student-led Ukulele Club. It is our policy that all students receiving instrumental tuition should join one or more groups as soon as they are able as this is a most important aspect of their musical development. Students who are learning to play an instrument privately out of School are also encouraged to join these groups.
A mixed voice Choir that caters for all ages from 11 to 18 and membership is open to all without audition. Rehearsals take place once a week. As well as promoting the joy of singing, the mixed choir prepares a repertoire for School concerts and has also taken part in concerts in the Philharmonic Hall, both in its own right and as part of the larger chorus.
We believe the Chapel Choir is unique amongst independent day schools. Choristers perform what is essentially a cathedral repertoire. Admission is by audition, with voice trials held every June and September, although the Director of Music may assess individuals at other times of year as well. Apart from providing the music in Chapel during the week and at the Sunday service, the Choir undertakes recitals and various cathedral work. In recent years summer cathedral weeks have included Lincoln Minster, York Minster, Exeter Cathedral, Chichester Cathedral, Truro and Salisbury Cathedrals. These are “working holidays” during which we sing the daily offices in the cathedral or Minster, and go out on excursions, sight-seeing and recreational activities. Since 1991 we have alternated these weeks with tours abroad and have given a series of very successful concerts in Venice, Verona, Normandy, Florence, Vienna, Salzburg; in 2007 we returned to the Czech Republic for a recital tour centred on Prague. In 2008 we were resident for a week at Wells Cathedral and in 2009 we visited Spain, singing recitals in Barcelona Cathedral and elsewhere. In 2011 we returned to the wonderful city of Venice for the fifth time, singing in St Mark’s Basilica and also in Padua Cathedral and in 2013 we returned to Truro Cathedral. Singing for occasional weddings is also a popular and lucrative activity. It’s all hard work but plenty of fun! Other activities are social and include the Christmas Party and the more formal Choir Dinner which is hosted by the Headmaster especially for the choristers. All this helps to cement the strong social life and “family atmosphere” within the Choir in which pupils from Prep to Sixth Form work together as musical equals.
A high musical standard is expected and maintained in the Chapel Choir and yet the commitment is not unreasonable – one or two short before-School rehearsals, one lunchtime rehearsal and one after-School rehearsal each week and attendance at most Sunday services (one a week during term time) is expected. At busy times extra rehearsals may be arranged but this is rare.