Reflections from the Headmaster’s Blog, September 2020

Everything is different.  We have to make decisions where, once upon a time, no decision was required; things were just done, things such as singing.

There are so many benefits to a boy’s education and development by being in a boys’ school.  Singing is one of those benefits – they simply do it.  Less inhibited in the absence of girls (possibly a little reminiscent of the stands at Twickenham at times) they sing with energy and passion.  Stephen Sondheim captures the value of singing beautifully and succinctly, ‘If I cannot fly, let me sing.’ 

In our rather muddled, inchoate Covid-19 world, we look to the science for guidance.  Even there, we find little solace.  One piece of evidence says that ‘gentle’ singing produces no more ‘droplets’ than talking; another suggests the reverse.  Where there is so little clarity we must err on the side of caution thus this week’s difficult decision was to place tighter controls on singing in school.  No longer can we sing in year groups or bubbles.  No longer can we sing in assemblies.  No longer can we sing in our beautiful chapel as there is inadequate ventilation.

We can however sing gently in small groups, all facing the same direction, distanced, in our larger well ventilated spaces.  As we did last term, we can also sing remotely, patch it all together digitally and produce some wonderful music.  ‘Reach for the Stars’ was a piece of musical fun; Colours of Day was delightful; the Chapel Choir singing ‘Wide Open Spaces’ was poignant and powerful.

This week we have been humming hymns and ‘Big Red Combine Harvester’ as we look towards harvest, and preparing to perform an arrangement of Vivaldi’s Autumn from ‘The Four Seasons’ as a virtual school community orchestra.  Harvest services are so well attended by parents, year on year, especially Reception who would have their first service in chapel.  This year, however, is different.  We are planning to have a whole school Harvest festival and service via Zoom to which we will invite parents.  Some of the most powerful events of the last term were when we all came together for services or celebrations.  More detail to follow in due course.

‘Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul.’  Plato

Mike Piercy, September 2020