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Faculty: Expressive Arts
Orchestra Choir Composition


“Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music.”

Sergei Rachmaninoff

Aims and Philosophy of the Music Department

In the Music department we aim to stimulate and maintain curiosity, interest and enjoyment in music and to enable pupils to be sensitive to, familiar with and confident across a range of key skill areas and vocabulary. We aim to develop in our pupils a sense of pride in their work, a readiness to improve, a sense of purpose, sensitivity, and a willingness to take the lead or support others. Pupils are made aware of the implications of music (past and present) for the individual and the local, national and international communities and encouraged to develop informed opinions. They are given opportunities to control sounds, create and develop musical ideas, respond and review their own and each other’s work and to listen and apply knowledge and understanding by the use of relevant listening and traditional musical notation, including Sibelius software.


At Key Stage 3, each year-group builds on the elements of performing, composing and listening and appraising begun at Key Stages 1 and 2. They learn how to play, read, sing and notate notes on the treble clef stave and to use the pre-recorded backing tracks on the keyboards, such as Pachelbel’s Canon in D over which they compose their own melodic variation.

When students come into Form I they are encouraged to learn an instrument and to take part in group activities, such as composing a medieval dance in triple metre or improvising on a 12-bar-blues chord sequence, using the electronic keyboards. They also input notes onto a computer using the Sibelius software, for instance, via an African drumming project in Form I. By the time they begin their GCSE studies they will have explored the music of the Medieval, Baroque and Classical periods as well as studying Folk Music, Jazz and Popular styles. Key Stage 3 culminates in a group project called “Music of Concern”, where students research a topic such as poverty, war or loneliness. They write their own lyrics, melody, harmony, instrumental part and backing vocals and then perform their composition to the other group, evaluating their work at each stage of the process.

GCSE (Edexcel)

GCSE Music continues to develop the three elements from Key Stage 3, i.e. Performing, Composing, and Listening and Appraising. Students are expected to perform one solo and one ensemble piece and to compose two original compositions or arrangements or one of each, based on one of the four areas of study, using Sibelius software which each student has downloaded onto their laptop. They practise these units in class time and then complete them as a Controlled Assessment.

In Unit 3, Listening and Appraising, there are four areas of study, covering twelve set works:

  • Handel: And the Glory of the Lord
  • Mozart: Symphony No 40, 1st movement
  • Chopin: Raindrop Prelude
  • Schoenberg: Peripetie
  • Bernstein: Something’s Coming
  • Reich: Electric Counterpoint
  • Miles Davis: All Blues
  • Jeff Buckley: Grace
  • Moby: Why does my heart feel so bad?
  • Capercaille: Skye Walking Song
  • Rag Desh
  • Koko: Yiri

A Level (OCR)

At A Level, there are three units for both the AS and the A2 Level course.

AS Level

  • Performing
    • solo recital on primary instrument (8 minutes)
    • viva voce with the examiner
    • performance on a second instrument (4 minutes)
  • Composing
    • 7 harmony exercises (one completed under controlled conditions)
    • one composition for 4-10 instruments
  •  Introduction to Historical Study
    • aural extracts from the period 1700-1825
    • prescribed works: a selection of 3 orchestral and 3 jazz pieces
    • comparative essays on the material studied

A2 Level

  • Performing
    • solo recital on primary instrument (15 minutes)
    • viva voce with examiner
  • Composing
    • a composition for voice, film music, or programme music
  •  Historical Study
    • aural extracts on vocal music, 1900-45
    • prescribed works: a selection of 3 vocal pieces
    • comparative essays on the material studied

Studying music helps pupils become more rounded individuals, broadens their CV or personal statement beyond the purely vocational, and gives them options – why go to university when there are music and performing art colleges?

Beyond the Classroom

Extra-curricular clubs run by the department have always proved very popular. The Senior Choir sings at all Sunday and Friday afternoon Chapel services, as well as singing Evensong at White Chapel Services. We have been the guest Choir at Evensong, singing at Gloucester, Winchester and Salisbury Cathedrals. The Choir also goes on biennial European Choir Tours; destinations have included Vienna (2012), Venice (2014) and Rome (2016).

The Orchestra and Flute Ensemble continue to flourish, playing at the termly Music & LAMDA Concerts as well as the annual Carol Service. In 2013, we formed a Band and an A Cappella group, both of which have performed at concerts as well as during the interval at House Music Competitions. The Music and Drama departments collaborate biennially with a whole school musical.  Productions have included Little Shop of Horrors (2012), Fiddler on the Roof (2014) and Thoroughly Modern Millie (2016).

Over the last few years, the Junior Choir and the Top 12 have collaborated chorally, the Top 12 with Eton College Chorus in A Night at the Opera in 2011 and the Junior Choir with Sunningdale Prep School in 2014 and 2016.

Both the music room and the library are well stocked with CDs, films and scores, which students from all year groups are encouraged to borrow to consolidate and broaden their listening.