SPS Q Festival

The blogosphere and indeed local media are probably all over this thing, with sentiments ranging from high praise and celebration to bitter complaints about noise pollution and propaganda. But hey, I might as well make my own (very) little contribution.

I have to admit I was originally highly sceptical about the whole thing. The previous day I was dragged straight from Core 2 into a rehearsal, spent half an hour laying out deckchairs, and was immediately plunged into a three-hour rehearsal (about which I had known nothing until I was ‘reminded’ about it that morning) which ended at six. And I somehow managed to survive all that on breakfast: two pains au chocolat (or however you choose to pluralise the French expression) and a cup of tea (lunch was out of the question. Apparently). The information I had, as a performer, received beforehand, also gave me the impression the entire event’s organisation left much to be desired; I was until the eve of the Q Festival unsure as to the colour of the suit I was to wear (conflicting data manifested itself in several different letters I had received). Rehearsals denied me the latter half of Apposition (= prizegiving) lunch which cost me an excellent dessert and also barred me from the chance of helping out with the open day, something I had dearly wanted to do since I had first been told about it. I also hate having to turn down offers to help blow up things (Chemistry); in fact I had to turn down every subject teacher who asked me to help, which was not particularly pleasant. And to cap it all it transpired at about 6pm of the actual day that they had somehow either forgotten or ignored the fact that musicians, like most other people, require dinner. And apparently all the musicians grabbed from the outside world were being paid, including old Paulines, while pupils like me who had been non-optionally drafted in were being treated essentially as unpaid trained monkeys. In other words I was not immensely impressed with the entire proceedings.

But when the actual concert started after a major emergency involving a lost bag, absent music scores and instruments locked in inaccessible (and inconspicuous) locations, I actually started to feel good about it. The crowd was relaxed and the Prokofiev sextet of which I was a member actually went quite well. Interestingly, although I quite literally had a microphone pressed against my head and an enormous high-resolution camera that resembled the Hubble Telescope pointing directly at my fingerboard, I felt much more at ease than playing for a small concert in the Wathen Hall. Perhaps it was the physical distance from the audience, but it just seemed really relaxed and unstressful. Or maybe it was just the champagne. And after that were the orchestra pieces. The incredibly boring passages that we had rehearsed to death in a hot cluttered hall with an insufficient caffeine supply for eternity and a day (i.e. 4 hours) suddenly came alive with the choir and, needless to say, Katherine Jenkins. The entire jubilant feeling of the celebration did start to affect me and wearing a ridiculous, sweaty, unnecessarily insulating outfit with a bow tie and white dinner jacket started actually to feel rather good and for a moment made me feel proud to be a Pauline. There’s for some reason a certain amount of self-confidence that a bow tie and excessively formal suit gives one. And right at the end when the drunk and high members of the crowd thronged around the stage to touch the one and only Katherine Jenkins and scream demands for an encore it felt good sitting on the stage pretending to have played everything correctly.

I have never been involved in anything of this magnitude before, and it was really quite a wonderful experience to take part. One thing that really struck me was the quality of the orchestra. The school orchestra is relatively good, depending on your interpretation of ‘relatively’ and ‘good’, and we tend to work for quite a long time on each piece before it even begins to make sense. The orchestra I was playing in was composed mostly of professionals and extremely good musicians and it truly made a huge difference – each of the five or so pieces was conquered in half an hour of rehearsal, and everyone *actually* played in time (which for the Carmen and Gershwin was quite a feat)!

I was also somewhat surprised by the police presence – while our rehearsal was in mid-swing, three police vans pulled up and a hoard of crowd control officers began patrolling the empty deckchairs.

Anyways in summary:

Apposition: Very interesting declamations, awesome lunch

Open Day: CompSoc was mostly us pissing around with SSH and MacOS’s text to speech functionality. And of course playing games. Chemistry smelt like some combination of pyridine, ammonia and chlorine. I also saw some old friends at Physics (building a trebuchet).

Concert: Brilliant.

Nutrition: High-quality Sodexo stuff for lunch, champagne and white wine to see me through the concert, Tesco pasta as a substitute for dinner, and a nice Stella Artois to conclude the evening.

Oh. That wasn’t brief at all. Never mind.

And finally, a word of apology for lack of activity. It’s exam period right now and I’m stressing over Economics. So you probably won’t hear much from me until 16 June (the day after my last exam). Meanwhile, good luck to all those other unfortunate souls with exams, and to all relevant parties, have a good half term!

More photos can be found here

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One Response to SPS Q Festival

  1. Josh Humber says:

    It sounds like things picked up after I left; I for one was not impressed with the open day.

    The least that Mr Williams and the school can do after making us perform our AS Theatre Studies piece again is to ensure that we have an audience of more than five people. It was badly advertised, and left us performers feeling like embarrassed cocks.

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